It is claimed that US president Donald Trump defied the voice of reason when he opted to go ahead with his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and for all intents and purposes, eliminated America's status as a neutral mediator in the issue.
A defiant Trump assured that it would not derail his own administration's attempts of brokering an Israel-Palestine peace deal, while at the same time he directed his state department to start making arrangements to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
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While Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the move as "historic", the rhetoric from the rest of the world was much more condemning. Saudi Arabia called the decision "unjustified and irresponsible", and both France and the UK said they did not support the move. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini voiced "serious concern", while Turkey president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that "Trump was throwing the region into a ring of fire".
Following his speech, hundreds of Israeli troops have been deployed to the West Bank to prepare for protests and violence. Members of US embassies around the world have been asked to stay on high alert as demonstrations broke out outside consulates in Turkey's and Jordan's capitals of Istanbul and Amman respectively. These will no doubt dent US peace efforts led in the region by Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
When the newly-formed UN partitioned Palestine in 1947 to form Israel, the city of Jerusalem was given a special status because of religious sensitivities and the fact that it contained sites sacred to Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.
It was distinct from both Israel and Palestine and was going to be administered by an international council of the U.N. However, following the 6-day war in 1967, East Jerusalem, which includes the Old City, was annexed by Israel. According to the 1993 Israel-Palestine peace accords, its status was meant to be discussed in the latter stages of the peace talk and until a few days ago, it has never been officially recognized as a part of Israel.
During his speech, Trump said: "I've judged this course of action to be in the best interests of the United States of America and the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians," and that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital was 'nothing more or less than a recognition of reality'." However, the ulterior motive would that the decision fulfills a campaign promise to his right-wing, conservative, evangelical base, who arguably helped him win the 2016 elections.
The claim isn't too far-fetched either; according to Pew Research Centre, 80% of evangelical Christians claimed they had voted for Trump, while just 16% voted for his Democratic counterpart Hillary Clinton. His campaign promise to see Jerusalem recognized as the capital of Israel first helped him sweep the Republican primaries from Ted Cruz, the blue-eyed boy of the evangelicals who had repeatedly paraded his religious upbringing and condemned same-sex marriage and abortion.
But why exactly is such a controversial geopolitical issue so important to the country's impassioned evangelical base? As it is with most heated topics, the answer lies in religion. Theological scholar Dr. Diana Butler explained recognition of Jerusalem, evangelical Christians, and the apocalypse in a series of tweets:
Those sentiments were echoed by Anna Merlan, a reporter with the Gizmodo and Matthew Gabriele, an expert in religious violence at Virginia Tech.
As mentioned in Butler's tweets, the significance of Jerusalem concerns the 'Third Temple' prophecy. Since 70 AD, when the Romans tore down the 'Second Temple,' there has been no Jewish temple on the site of the Temple Mount. Prophecies of said Third Temple have been made in the books of Daniel, Matthew, and Revelation, as well as the Second epistle to the Thessaonians.
These have been interpreted to mean that the building of this prophesied 'Third Temple,' known in some quarters as the 'Tribulation Temple,' will occur during the period of the Antichrist and bring about the apocalypse on our planet. This would then be followed by a 1,000 years of rule on Earth by Christ himself, which many are in favor of seeing happen.
However, it would be unfair to lump all evangelicals into the same category, with many speaking out against Trump's hasty decision to move Israel's capital to Jerusalem. New Testament scholar Gary M. Burge wrote in The Atlantic: "Numerous evangelicals like me are less enamoured of the recent romance between the church and Republican politics, and worry about moving the U.S. embassy. For us, peacemaking and the pursuit of justice are very high virtues."
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