The long road to Jerusalem

US President Donald Trump delivers remarks on November 15, 2017 in the Diplomatic Room at the White House in Washington,DC. Nicholas Kamm / AFP

There would be no winner in the battle for Jerusalem unless the two sides decide to fight for peace and attain victory as a jointly cherished prize. In the New Year Jerusalem would still be in the news as it has been since President Donald Trump decided that the American embassy in Israel would move from Tel Avis to Jerusalem. Trump said he recognizes Jerusalem as a single city and that America would now recognize it as the capital of Israel. Easier said than done! The action has stirred up interest across the world, not just among politicians and statesmen, but also among ordinary citizens, especially Christian Pentecostals who saw in Trump’s impulsive move a fulfillment of End Time predictions.

Jerusalem is an ancient city, one of the few continuously occupied human settlements in history. It is believed to be in the same category as Ile-Ife, Damascus, Athens, Rome and Cairo. For hundreds of years, archeologists have been busy on its tells, trying to uncover the echoes of ancient history. No site in history has generated more interested for both scholars and soldiers like Jerusalem. It is the most fought after piece of real estate in the world. Now it is again on the front burner of international politics.

Trump has played the American card which past Presidents of the United States have waved at Israeli authorizes for several decades. They always said that at the end of agreed negotiations for a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflicts, Jerusalem would be the ultimate prize for the Jews. The Palestinians would recognize the right of Israel to exist. Israel wood also recognizes the right of Palestine to exist. Part of the final settlement would be the right of Israel to East Jerusalem while the Palestinians have West Jerusalem. Now Trump has thrown this bargaining chip away without getting anything substantial in return. He has not given anything for the Palestinians in return.

Jerusalem was the city of David, the ancient king of Israel. It was also called Zion. The city was seized from the Jebusites (the ancestors of the Palestinians) about 3000 years ago by David armies. The city served as capital for the united kingdom of Israel and Judah until it fell to the hands of invaders, notably the Babylonians under their great king, Nebuchadnezzar, the empire builder. He destroyed the ancient temple of Solomon, smashed the Ark of the Covenant and carried the Jews into exile and brought foreigners to occupy Jerusalem. The land was to pass into the hands of other conquerors; the Assyrians, the Egyptians, the Romans and others. By the time Jesus Christ was born, the old Kingdom of Israel was one of the provinces of the ancient Roman Empire.

The Jews, based on the strength of an old prophesy, believed that they would regain their freedom from the Romans and that a new king would come and reign over them. When Christ emerged on the scene as a leader of a new sect of Judaism, some of the orthodox Jews saw him as the fulfillment of the prophesy. When he refused to bear arms, they betrayed him and the Roman rulers had him executed for treason on a hill in Jerusalem. By AD 40, Judas Maccabees, the Jew’s military hero, led another armed revolt against the Romans, stirring up the entire Jewish population. He underestimated the awesome military power of the Roman Empire. He was defeated. After that, the Jews were again carried into exile that was to last for 2000 years.

More than the Jews ever bargain, Jesus, the man who was crucified, was to become the most influential personage in history. He was to change the concept of religion in the world. He introduced the concept of monotheism, the belief in one God. In the new theology, the Jewish Supreme Deity, Jehovah Jireh, was transformed into the God of entire humanity, no longer just the God of the Jews. Christ posited that the old God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is also the God of the Gentiles. His most influential follower, Paul, said every follower of Christ, is an adopted son of Abraham. Another religious leader, the Holy Prophet Mohammed, was to emerge in neighboring Arabia seven centuries later and he adopted most of the theological concepts of Christ, including the belief in the universality of the Godhead. Like Jesus Christ, Mohammed also believes in the concept of Abraham as the father of faith. He also recognizes most of the ancient prophets mentioned in the Old Testament and the Jewish Torah, including Moses, Solomon and Jesus.

All these developments were to have serious impact on the Jews. In exile, the Jews, regarding themselves as the authentic children of Abraham, were allowed to practice their faith in many countries. For many centuries, Mecca and Medina, holy to the Moslems, the followers of Prophet Mohammed, were also flourishing centers of Jewish theology. But in Europe, Judaism was to run into foul weathers. For centuries, they were the persecuted minority, banished to live only in the Jewish ghettos and subjected to reckless persecution. They were seen by the lowly mobs of Christendom as the persecutors of Christ. When Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, as the Chancellor of a resurgent Germany, he made persecution of the Jews an official state policy. By the end of the Second World War in 1945, Hitler was defeated by the Allied Powers, but by that time he had killed more than six million Jews in what became known in history as the Jewish Holocaust.

The victorious powers, the Big Three, United Kingdom, the United States and Soviet Union, decided that it was time the Jews have their independent homeland which they have been advocating for since the 19th Century. The British were persuaded to give the Jews a part of their ancient land, which to Jews, was the biblical Promised Land. The land was divided into two, one for the Palestinians Arabs, who also regarded the place as home, and the other part for the Jews.For the first time in 2000 years, the Jews were having an independent state. The Arab rejected the arrangement. War was declared on the nascent state.The Arabs were defeated and majority of the Palestinians, rather than live under Jewish rule, fled into exile. In 1967, after the most decisive Arab-Israeli War, the Israel annexed East Jerusalem with West Jerusalem and the city came under one government. The sovereignty of the Jews over the city was not recognized by the international community.

The United Nations met and decided that it support the two-states solution as was originally agreed in 1948. Despite series of United Nations resolutions including that of the Security Council, Israel has held on to land originally allocated to the Palestinians. Originally, the Palestinians, through the Palestine Liberation Organisation, PLO, had sought the destruction of Israel, vowing that they would drive the Jews “into the sea.” However, with the passage of years and as Israel became an impregnable fortress, wisdom had prevailed over emotion and the Palestinians have come to accept the two-states solution. Indeed, the Oslo Accord, brokered by the United States, was based on that. Now that agreement is dead likes its two main protagonist, PLO’s Yasser Arafat and Israeli Yitzhak Rabin.

In recent years, Israelis have been overtaken by corky conservative sentiments. Many of them now believe in the infallibility of Israel’s vigilance and the inviolability of its claims. These conservatives vanguard love to quote the biblical story where God gave the Promised Land to Israel. The validity of this has been challenged by the Arabs who say that when God was giving their land to the Jews, they were not brought into the bargain. Since the Arab-Israeli conflict started in 1948, it has engendered many wars, terrorist acts, including the September 11 attack on the United States, and endless bloodletting. It has led to the Civil War in Jordan, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the massacre at Sabra and Shatila, and the vicarious upheavals in several countries and the rise of radical Islam with its universal repercussions in the mountains of Afghanistan, the ISIS phenomenon in the Levant and the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria and other parts of West Africa.

It is not clear what are the strategic advantages, if any, of Trump’s decision. About 30 percent of Jerusalem residents are Arabs, mostly Muslims and only about one percent is Christians. Yet, the Christians, especially where they are the minority, have borne the brunts of Arabs and Muslims frustrations over the fate of Palestine and Jerusalem. Most of the Christians who live in Jerusalem are Palestinians. How would this Trump’s recognition change the demography of Jerusalem? How would it affect the quest for permanent peace based on the universally accepted formular of two-states living in peace as neighbours?

On the wider plane, may weaken American influence in Middle-East especially on the traditional Western allies like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Morocco and Jordan. It may also further radicalize Arab youths who would see violence as the only route to confront America. These may have serious security implications on countries like Nigeria, which though not directly involved, that have large Muslim population. Ultimately, it would weaken the United States which for several decades had been regarded as the sole power with the key to bring permanent peace to the Middle-East. Indeed, the fallout may threaten American security interests and boost the interest and influence of Russian and China, two countries that were hitherto regarded as “godless” by the conservative Arab plutocracies.

For the Palestinians, Trump has dealt a big, if not deadly, blow. They can take inspirations from the experience of the Jews. If the Jews can triumph and have their own state after 2000 years of exile, then there is certainly hope for the Palestinians.

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