In 1980, the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA adopted a policy statement on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In that statement, the NCC said, “Unilateral actions by any one group in relation to Jerusalem will only perpetuate antagonisms that will threaten the peace of the city and possibly of the region.” In 2007, the NCC again affirmed a shared Jerusalem.
We reiterate those statements today. For decades, U.S. presidents have acted with prudence and caution regarding Jerusalem. President Trump’s actions threaten to unleash violence throughout the region and severely damage any remaining U.S. diplomatic credibility to act as a broker for a peace agreement.
The status of Jerusalem has long been at the center of the Israeli – Palestinian conflict. While West Jerusalem serves as the de facto capital of Israel, East Jerusalem has always been considered the capital of the future state of Palestine. By unilaterally declaring the entire city to be Israel’s capital, and by announcing the upcoming move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, Mr. Trump has thrown fuel on the fires of conflict in the region. People are likely to die as a direct result of this decision.
Some of Mr. Trump’s supporters claim biblical, theological and historical reasons to uphold Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. They are in error. The Christians in the Holy Land, whose communities trace their lineage to the first days of Christianity, know that these reasons are specious. Mr. Trump’s simplistic approach to the complexities of the region make a mockery of the hardships the people there – whether Israelis or Palestinians, whether Christians or Jews or Muslims – have suffered over the years.
We note that a delegation of leaders from NCC member communion, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), including Stated Clerk Rev. J. Herbert Nelson, is now in the region. We are grateful for their peace witness and uphold the right of all who seek to protest peacefully. We pray for the safety of all in the region.