Pence in the Middle East: Jerusalem as capital is a victory for Christian Zionists
The decision represents a break with traditional US foreign policy. The decision to move the embassy is due to the influence of Evangelical and right-wing Christians. This is part of an apocalyptic "crusade" to speed up the second coming of Jesus.
Beirut (AsiaNews) "If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget. May my tongue stick to my palate if I do not remember you, If I do not exalt Jerusalem beyond all my delights,” says Psalm 137:5-6. We must keep these words in mind to gage the impact on Jewish consciousness of the US decision to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, now officially recognised as Israel’s capital.
President Trump’s decision follows a certain logic, and does not come out of the blue despite the surprise and shock it caused to Arab governments. Two official solemn declarations on Jerusalem precede this recognition. The first is a law adopted on 30 July 1980 by Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, o annex East Jerusalem and proclaim Jerusalem as Israel’s "one and indivisible" capital. The second is a law passed by the United States Congress in 1995 formally declaring Jerusalem as Israel's "indivisible" capital and calling for the relocation of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
US Vice President Mike Pence’s recent visit to Egypt, Jordan, and Israel is, in a way, the crowning achievement of President Trump's initiative. At the same time, it shows the disarray of Palestinian leaders at the US decision and the retreat from the peace process. In addition, it includes a gray area.
Cheered in the Knesset and treated as "man of integrity and honour" by Israeli president Reuven Rivlin, America’s VP, who prayed in occupied East Jerusalem at the Western Wall, completed his tour of the region without meeting a single Palestinian official. Indeed, only Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sissi and Jordan’s Hashemite ruler, Abdullah II, met with Pence since Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas froze all contacts with US officials after the controversial Embassy decision, stating that he would not meet the vice president.
Whatever one might think of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this sullenness is indicative of the immense disappointment the US decision has generally provoked in Arab leaders, whilst creating a considerable gray area in Washington's foreign policy.
In fact, the US President's decision of 6 December 2017 has been widely interpreted as a concession to American Evangelical voters. However, for Lebanese journalist Elie Fayad, "the question everybody is asking now is this: Does this decision to transfer implicitly include an American decision to recognise the annexation of East Jerusalem, conquered with the West Bank, the Golan and Sinai, in Israel’s 1967 blitzkrieg? Is it possible that a country governed by the rule of law like the United States will let itself accept such a contradiction and accept that a territory that they consider officially as occupied be designated as the capital of the occupier? Because if this is the case, then they are not only going against the whole world, or international resolutions, but also against themselves!"
If, in deciding the transfer of the embassy, they implicitly recognise Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, added the aforementioned expert, then the United States will have broken with "the" fundamental dogma of their foreign policy, namely that "In case of conflict, the United States does not allow itself any decision that can anticipate an agreement between the two parties involved in the conflict".
What led the American president to break with this tradition so abruptly and create such a gray area, knowing that the United States, as well as the entire international community, still consider the territories conquered by Israel in 1967 as "Occupied Territories"?
The answer to this question lies in the religious motivations of President Trump's Evangelical electorate, whose convictions Vice President Mike Pence shares, to the extent, it is said, that he played a dominant influence on the US decision.
Indeed, according to former Lebanese Minister of Culture, Tarek Mitri, who headed the ecumenical office of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva, "born a Catholic, the US Vice President is a convert to Evangelical Protestantism, and belongs to a movement within the Republican party that deems itself engaged in a crusade for the preservation of America’s identity and Christian values.
"Very influential in the Republican Party, the Christian right generally supports Israel," Mitri writes. At the heart of this movement are the Christian and dispensational Zionists who believe that the creation of Israel in 1948 was "the sign of all signs" and "the greatest event from a prophetic point of view since the destruction of Temple of Solomon, in the year 70 of the Christian era” (Au nom de Dieu, au nom de l’Amérique, de Tarek Mitri, Labor et Fides, page 172).
"This movement," writes Mitri, "has an apocalyptic view of history and sincerely believes that the restoration of Israel is a prelude to the second coming of Christ." For him, Donald Trump's decision honours a promise made to this electorate, about 30 to 40 per cent of voters, which includes right-wing Christians, conservatives, and other evangelicals.
Mohammad Sammak, co-chair of Lebanon’s National Committee for Christian-Muslim Dialogue, goes so far as to say that the decision to transfer the US embassy to Jerusalem could be the prelude to recognition of Israel's sovereignty over Occupied Jerusalem. What is more, it was done in the centennial year of the Balfour Declaration, named after the British Lord who promised the Zionist movement the creation of a "Jewish national home" in Palestine, and who, according to Mitri, was a “Christian Zionist".