In 2000, the heads of Jerusalem churches wrote a letter to the leaders at Camp David as they decided the status of Jerusalem. In 2017, these patriarchs once again wrote a letter, but this time it was directed to U.S. President Donald Trump. Jerusalem Christian church leaders pled that President Trump “continue recognizing the present international status of Jerusalem. Any sudden changes would cause irreparable harm.”
President Trump’s “Deal of the Century”, a peace plan announced at the start of 2020, unveiled the United States’ recognition that Israel has the sovereign right to an “undivided Jerusalem.” Once again, these Christian clergy wrote a letter sharing their heavy concerns and advice.
Trump’s “Deal of the Century”
President Trump announced his peace plan, the “Deal of the Century”, alongside his guest of honor, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “After 70 years of little progress, this could be the last opportunity [Palestinians] will ever have,” Trump said. Palestinian delegations were entirely absent from this meeting, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called it the “slap of the century.”
According to the Associated Press, Trump’s plan can be summarized as follows:
- Borders: The creation of a disjointed Palestinian state linked through “pragmatic transportation solutions.” One fourth of the West Bank will “be under Israeli sovereignty.”
- Jerusalem: The Holy City would largely be placed under Israeli control. Palestinians would be allowed to establish a capital on the outskirts of Jerusalem, beyond Israel’s separation barrier.
- Settlements: Israel would be allowed to annex all its illegal West Bank settlements.
- Security: Israel would “maintain overriding security responsibility” for the Palestinian state and control all borders. The state of Palestine would be “fully demilitarized.”
- Refugees: The plan states that “there shall be no right of return by, or absorption of, any Palestinian refugee into the state of Israel.”
American diplomat Philip H. Gordon shared his understanding of Trump’s peace plan with the Council on Foreign Relations: “The plan seems to me more a codification of Israeli positions than a serious proposal for negotiated peace.”
Jerusalem Christian Church Leaders Respond to Trump’s Peace Plan
Thirteen of the Jerusalem church leaders released a statement in response to President Trump’s “Deal of the Century.” The statement affirms their devotion to achieving a just peace “based on the international legitimacy and relevant UN resolutions and in a manner that guarantees security, peace, freedom and dignity to all of the peoples of the region.”
“The American peace plan that was announced yesterday in the White House in the presence of the Israelis and the absence of the Palestinians, invites us to request from the U.S. administration as well as the international community to build on the vision of two states and develop it in line with international legitimacy, in addition to opening a political communication channel with the Palestine Liberation Organization, the internationally recognized sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, to ensure that its legitimate national aspirations are also satisfied within the framework of a comprehensive and durable peace plan to be accepted by all relevant parties.”
The Christian patriarchs repeated the advice of their 2017 letter to President Trump, which stated that Jerusalem “be open and shared by the two peoples, Palestinians and Israelis, and for the three monotheistic religions and our confirmation to uphold the Hashemite custodianship over the Holy Sites.”
The Palestinian Christian organization SABEEL put out a 2017 statement calling for, “justice, peace, and reconciliation.”
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