A New Government in Israel: the Issue of Jerusalem
by Sarah Ann Haves
Israel now has a new 94 member National Unity Government representing 78% of the nation. While most of the country was preparing for early elections in September 2012, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was meeting behind closed doors with center-left leader Shaul Mofaz, recently elected as head of the Kadima party. Netanyahu urged Mofaz to join Israel's current coalition government rather than remain the head of the opposition. Mofaz agreed and was awarded the position of Vice Premier. There are now three Vice Premiers in the government, but Mofaz is the first in-line to act as Prime Minister when Netanyahu travels abroad.
With the addition of Kadima in the government coalition, it is expected that Netanyahu will now have more leverage in the peace process, as right-wing parties, including his own Likud party, lose influence. Mofaz, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, are sure to push Netanyahu to offer confidence-building measures to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to get him to the peace table.
One of their priorities
is to advance the
Mofaz and Netanyahu have declared what they hope to accomplish in the next 17 months. One of their priorities is to advance the peace process. Mofaz has said that the new government coalition will be able to contend better with the challenges facing Israel, including a historic territorial compromise with Israel's Palestinian neighbors.
The concern among the religious parties in Netanyahu's coalition is that the new Israeli government will agree to the Palestinian demand to freeze settlement activity in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and East Jerusalem. This would be a pre-condition to Netanyahu and Abbas sitting across the table from one another and discussing conditions to achieve a peace deal. If Netanyahu agrees to this pre-condition, he can expect loud opposition from within the ranks of his own Likud party. However, it is likely he will seek to offer Abbas this carrot stick to get the peace process moving.
After the completion of a recent exchange of letters between Netanyahu and Abbas, the following statement was released to the media: "Israel and the Palestinian Authority are committed to achieving peace and the sides hope that the exchange of letters between President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu will further this goal."
In and of itself this statement does not represent a clear understanding that the peace process will move forward, but with the formation of the new Israeli National Unity Government, Netanyahu has more wiggle room within his coalition to come up with creative solutions to advancing peace.
Of greatest concern to pro-Israel supporters should be the issue of Jerusalem. Most influential members of Netanyahu's government are willing to leave the subject of Jerusalem on the back burner in order to enter into successful talks with Abbas. But, it is this very issue that has caused the widest gap in any future agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. At this point, the current Israeli government has declared that Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel, under Israeli sovereignty. At the same time, the Palestinians have declared that Jerusalem is to be their undivided sovereign capital. This is the crux of contention that will remain despite any attempt to negotiate a final peace agreement.
If Israel is able to settle other disputes, such as borders and land swaps, and Jerusalem becomes the main divider, we can expect that the international community will step in. World leaders will look to pressure Israel to compromise on Jerusalem, as even the U.S. does not officially recognize the city as Israel's capital.
The Palestinians continue to conduct a world-wide campaign aimed at discrediting Israel's right to govern the city. The Palestinian Authority (PA) under the direction of Abbas has repeatedly denied Israel's historic and biblical rights to Jewish sovereignty over Jerusalem. Refuting 3,000 years of Jewish history in the city, the Palestinians say it is solely a Moslem Arab and Christian city. Abbas has proclaimed that Israel is stealing the Islamic-Christian cultural and religious history of the city. He believes that taking control of Jerusalem from Israeli authorities is a religious Islamic obligation at the highest level.
As reported by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), Abbas spoke on Al-Jazeera Television, March 27, 2010, about Jerusalem. "I say to the leaders of our Arab nation and to its peoples: 'Jerusalem and its environs are a trust that Allah entrusted to us. Saving it (Jerusalem) from the settlement monster and the danger of Judaization and (land) confiscation is a personal (Islamic) commandment incumbent on all of us. Therefore, I call all of you to serious and urgent action to save (Jerusalem) and to make available all possibilities in order to strengthen our resolve and to maintain its historical, cultural and religious character.' "
The Palestinian Minister of Religion, Mahmoud Al-Habbash, has warned that there will be religious war over Jerusalem. According to PMW, the Palestinian Mufti Muhammad Hussein said on PA TV, January 5, 2012: "They (Jews) want to say or suggest that this place (i.e., the Temple Mount) was once, according to their claim, a Temple. However, the truth, there never was a Temple in any period, nor was there, at any time, any place of worship for the Jews or others at the Al-Aqsa Mosque site (i.e., which was built on the Temple Mount, 705 CE)."
"The capital of
the caliphate...will be Jerusalem."
It is not just the Palestinians that have issued recent statements condemning Israel's rule over Jerusalem. In neighboring Egypt, Al-Nas TV released a video clip in early May. The clip shows radical Islamic preacher, Safwat Higazi, speaking to thousands of Moslem Brotherhood supporters in Cairo. He said: "The capital of the caliphate — the capital of the United States of the Arabs — will be Jerusalem." The crowd responded, "Millions of martyrs march towards Jerusalem."
While the Palestinians and their Arab neighbors try to convince the world that Israel is occupying their holy city, the voices that are not being heard are those of the global Jewish and Christian communities. What will be most noteworthy is how strong these communities will be in vocalizing their insistence that Jerusalem must remain united under Israeli rule. Will these communities be willing to speak up, in the future, even if it means that peace with the Palestinians may never be achieved?
“And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it." Zechariah 12:3
Ms. Haves is a news analyst, reporting on political, diplomatic, military and spiritual issues in Israel and the nations.
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Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright ©1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.