If, as a rumor suggests, U.S. President Donald Trump plans on dividing Jerusalem the strongest objection that will prevent it from materializing may come from his evangelical voter base. According to some, the motives of Christian lovers of Israel run very deep indeed.
In an article, Ben Caspit, a senior journalist for Al-Monitor, cited a “very high-placed political source in Jerusalem,” who stated on the condition of anonymity that Trump’s much-awaited Middle East peace plan required dividing Jerusalem into three sections. One section will be a Palestinian capital in significant sections of East Jerusalem.”
“According to the source, there will be two capitals in Jerusalem,” Caspit wrote. “The Israeli capital in West Jerusalem including control over the Western Wall and Jewish neighborhoods in the city’s western sections, and the capital of Palestine in the eastern section. In addition, there will be a third region, within the Holy Basin, set to be under international control.
This aspect of the plan, which had been leaked to the Netanyahu government, was a source of serious concern since it was recently announced that new elections for the Israeli government will be held in April 2019. According to Caspit, accepting such a plan will lead to massive protests by the Israeli right-wing. Rejecting the plan could damage relations between Netanyahu and Trump.
“Well, ‘interesting if true’ should be one’s first response, as prior leaks that have proved to be inaccurate,” Pipes wrote.
Pipes compared the idea to the original 1947 United Nations Partition Plan which had Jerusalem established as an international city.
“In other words, it’s anachronistic,” Pipes wrote. “The idea is also wildly dangerous: imagine placing one of the world’s most sensitive locations under the control of the U.N. General Assembly or the Quartet on the Middle East. Its inevitable mischief could well set off the next round of fighting.”
Pipes objected to the plan to divide Jerusalem as implicitly rewarding Palestinian non-compliance with previous agreements by handing over swaths of sovereign Israeli territory. In addition to sabotaging Netanyahu’s political standing, Pipes noted it would inevitably alienate Trump’s evangelical voter base.
This final point, the evangelical response to dividing Jerusalem, may be far more explosive than many of the political players realize, more so for Trump than for his Israeli counterpart. Chris Mitchell, Christian Broadcasting Network Middle East Bureau Chief based in Jerusalem and author of several books on Jerusalem, emphasized that Trump’s evangelical voter base has a strong interest in maintaining Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem.
“The Peace Plan hasn’t been announced yet but it seems to me that it would be a non-starter for evangelicals,” Mitchell told Breaking Israel News. “They rejoiced when the embassy was moved and when the president recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. It doesn’t seem they would be agreeable to any moves away from that.”
“There are several pressing domestic issues in politics but I think Jerusalem would transcend all of them. Issues like the border wall will be resolved one way or another but the issue of Jerusalem will always remain important to evangelicals.”
“A lot of Christians view Jewish sovereignty in Jerusalem in a prophetic sense,” Mitchell said, citing a section of the New Testament in which it is prophesied that Jerusalem will be trodden down but Jews will eventually reclaim their capital. “When General [Mordechai] ‘Motta’ Gur announced in 1967 that Jerusalem and the Temple Mount was in Jewish hands, it resonated with Jews but it also resonated powerfully with Christians around the world. It was a spiritual landmark, a prophetic demarcation that this prophecy was happening.”
Joshua Reinstein, director of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus, believes that a peace plan that involves dividing Jerusalem will be a self-destructive political move for the U.S. president.
“Christian supporters of Israel will consider such a move to be a disaster,” Reinstein told Breaking Israel News. “They’ve been pushing for a united Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel since the creation of the state. Their politics in the Middle East have a Biblically based perspective.”
“I do not see any possibility of Trump trying to divide Jerusalem since it would entirely undermine his voter base which is strongly Christian. If he loses that he has zero chance of reelection.”
David Parsons, vice president and senior international spokesman for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, argues that Christians have a strong personal interest in maintaining Jewish sovereignty in Jerusalem.
“Dividing Jerusalem would not bring peace to the city. If anything, it would just intensify the battle,” Parsons told Breaking Israel News. “We think Jerusalem should stay united under Israeli sovereignty. Israel has the best track record for protecting the freedom of access to our holy sites and for freedom of worship in Jerusalem. That should be one of the key concerns about who has sovereignty in the city. The Palestinian record is horrendous on these issues. The international community does nothing to protect Christians in the face of radical Islam. We see this especially in the Middle East.”
Parsons emphasized that this is a pivotal moment in history and Christians cannot remain silent.
“The nations have a choice now to give Jerusalem the honor and respect it is due, to recognize that it is first and foremost a Jewish city,” Parsons concluded.