Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Tenth of Tevet 2018: Jerusalem is Under Siege Again!

With the news about Australia recognizing West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, has anyone noticed the irony that it came within days of the Fast of Tevet?
According to II Kings (25:1-4), on the 10th day of the tenth month (Tevet), in the ninth year of Zedekiah's reign, Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, began the siege of Jerusalem. The Tenth of Tevet is first referred to, as a fast day, in the Book of Zechariah (8:19), where it is called the “fast of the tenth month.” Jews have mourned this event for over 2,400 years.
Jerusalem was besieged, then later captured, and destroyed. It’s been besieged and destroyed many times since. Is the growing diplomatic recognition today of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the historic justice, the Jewish people have been waiting for?
Jerusalem might be special to many throughout the world, but it’s only been the political capital of one nation, the Jewish people, since King David made it the capital city of his kingdom, over 3,000 years ago.
During the Israeli War of Independence in 1948, Israel’s nascent army maintained control over the western side of the city, but the eastern part fell to the Jordanians. Because Nasser of Egypt, King Hussein of Jordan, and Salah Jadid of Syria, decided to try and eliminate Israel in 1967, forcing Israel into the Six-Day-War, with Israel's victory, the eastern side of the city returned to Jewish control as well. In 1980, Israel officially annexed the eastern side of the city, in the "The Jerusalem Law."
Due to much diplomatic effort by the Israeli government, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced recently, “Australia recognizes West Jerusalem, the seat of the Knesset and many government institutions, as the capital of Israel.”
But, and this is the big but, Morrison stressed, the embassy would not move to West Jerusalem until a peace agreement was reached between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. In the mean time, he said that his government would establish an office that would deal with security and trade. Morrison added that a two-state solution is the only way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, with “aspirations of the Palestinian people for a future state with its capital in East Jerusalem.”
Netanyahu has been glaringly silent, the Prime Minister’s Office issued no statement.
But Netanyahu is also Minister of Foreign Affairs, and through his proxy, in a tepid response, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon, posted on Twitter: “Israel views the decision of the Australian government to open the Ministry of Economic Affairs in Jerusalem as a step in the right direction.”
Yuval Rotem, director general of the Foreign Ministry and a former Israeli ambassador to Canberra, issued a warmer response, tweeting, “I welcome Australia’s announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, reflecting the Jewish people’s historical bond to Jerusalem, and a practical approach to the future of the peace process in our region.”
After Morrison’s announcement, the gulf Arab Kingdom of Bahrain, expressed support for Australia's decision to recognize West Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Interestingly, last month, a senior Israeli official said that Israel is in close talks, to establish diplomatic relations with the Gulf state, as part of the growing rapprochement with moderate Arab states, including Oman.
This is all part of the larger strategic Sunni-American-Israeli coalition developing, against Shiite Iran.
Bahrain, I might add, is a Shiite-majority citizenry ruled by a small Sunni royal family and business class. Half of its population is foreigners. Bahraini leaders, fear Iran’s threatening presence.
Soon after Morrison made his announcement, the Arab League’s Assistant Secretary General for Palestine and the Occupied Arab Territories, Saeed Abu Ali, condemned Australia’s decision as a break with the international community’s position, and disregard of international law. In a statement, he said it was “blatantly biased toward the positions and policies of the Israeli occupation.”
In response, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister, Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, criticized the Arab League’s “irresponsible statements,” tweeting, “Australia’s position does not hamper the legitimate demands of the Palestinians, and first and foremost, East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital. It doesn’t contradict the Arab Peace Initiative.”
Let’s be clear, “Arab Peace Initiative,” “Palestinian capital,” “Two-State Solution,” means taking the eastern part of Jerusalem, i.e. the Old City, the Kotel/Western Wall, and Temple Mount, away from Jewish control, away from the Jewish people, putting Jerusalem under siege again.
But not all Israeli politicians were so subdued in their response to Australia’s announcement.
Minister for Regional Cooperation Tzachi Hanegbi tweeted, “Australia is a great friend of Israel and we greatly appreciate our friendship and warm relations. But there is no such thing as ‘West Jerusalem’ and ‘East Jerusalem.’ There is only Jerusalem, the eternal and undivided capital of the State of Israel.”
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said, “I am surprised by Australia’s recognition of West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and we will continue to insist on this, all of Jerusalem is our capital forever, not just part of it.”
Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis thanked Canberra, but he too added that, “all of Jerusalem has been our capital for the past 3,000 years.”
The PLO’s predictable response was: “The Australian government has decided to join US president Donald Trump and other governments against the implementation of the two-state solution. Jerusalem’s status remains to be discussed, in order to negotiate an agreement. East Jerusalem is an inseparable part of the occupied Palestinian territory, according to international law.”
Notice the PLO statement refers to “Jerusalem’s status,” not just the eastern part of the city.
Spokesman for the Palestinian Authority cabinet, Yusuf al-Mahmoud, said that “the Australian government’s decision to recognize western Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was a wrong step and showed an incorrect understanding of the political reality and decisions of the international institutions on Jerusalem since 1947.” al-Mahmoud called on other countries not to relocate their embassies to Jerusalem and to recognize the Arab city of Al-Quds as the natural capital of the “State of Palestine” in accordance with UN resolutions that established, “the West Bank and East Jerusalem are part of the Palestinian land occupied by Israel in 1967.” He stressed that, “any state that transfers its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem or recognizes western Jerusalem or the two parts of the city as the capital of the ‘occupying state’ violates international law, and takes a step, which is an attack against the Palestinian people and the Arab and Islamic nation.”
Notice, the PA spokesman accuses countries that recognize Israel’s right to “western Jerusalem,” as “an attack against the Palestinian people and the Arab and Islamic nation.”
Palestinian chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat added, “From the beginning, we’ve perceived the Australian government’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, as one wherein petty domestic politics steer irresponsible policies that contradict world peace and security. The policies of this Australian administration have done nothing to advance the two-state solution.” Erekat continued, “All of Jerusalem remains a final status issue for negotiations, while East Jerusalem, under international law, is an integral part of the occupied Palestinian territory.”
And Erekat repeats the same line, “All of Jerusalem remains a final status issue for negotiations.” Simply put, East Jerusalem is Palestinian and non-negotiable, West Jerusalem is on the chopping block, according to them.
Well, let me tell you something, the nearly 4,000 year old Jewish people don’t need anybody’s recognition of Jerusalem, as our capital city. God recognizes it as such. For over 3,000 years, since King David made Jerusalem his capital, it’s been the capital of the Jewish people, whether we’ve had an independent Jewish political entity – kingdom, commonwealth, state – or not. And the Western Wall, it’s been holy to Jews since the destruction of the second temple, nearly two thousand years ago.
Now that Jerusalem has been re-unified, Jews aren’t ready to give it up. Jerusalem has never been the capital city of any other people or sovereign entity, and Israeli Jews overwhelmingly agree that it should be kept that way.
I’ve been warning about this process that’s unfolding before our eyes, for a while already.
Remember candidate Donald Trump said, “A lot will have to do with Israel and whether or not Israel wants to make the deal – whether or not Israel’s willing to sacrifice certain things.”
And, in Dec. 2017, when Trump “recognized” Jerusalem, as Israel’s capital, he didn’t say “undivided capital.” Trump also said then, “Jerusalem is today, and must remain, a place where Jews pray at the Western Wall, where Christians walk the Stations of the Cross, and where Muslims worship at Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
Hence, preserving the status quo of the Old City and Temple Mount. A status quo that denigrates Jewish Rights. Is recognizing Israeli control, over western Jerusalem only, and intending to re-divide the city, Trump’s real plan?
Many Israeli politicians were enamored by Trump’s unclear recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, at the time. But I warned then, that the promised building of a new American embassy compound, by itself, in the Talpiot neighborhood of Jerusalem – on the western side of the city – does not preclude the division of Jerusalem. Giving eastern Jerusalem – liberated from Jordan in 1967 – to the Palestinians for the capital of their state, is still possible.
Don’t forget, Trump has still insisted, no “Jerusalem, Israel” on US Passports, of American citizens born there.
One think-tank analyst, John Sitilides, has suggested that Trump may be withholding putting “Jerusalem, Israel” on passports, due to his much-anticipated Mideast peace plan, rumored to be out in February 2019. “President Trump has recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but is now emphasizing his support for a two-state solution, and is withholding on the passport issue to maximize US leverage as his diplomatic negotiating team finalizes its proposals. He has publicly stated that Israel must be more flexible now that Jerusalem has been recognized.”
Since America’s embassy move, the Israeli government has been discussing with some ten other countries, moving their embassies to Jerusalem, including those of Brazil, the Czech Republic, Romania, and Honduras.
We now see the spoiled fruit of those efforts, Australia’s Morrison, more clearly than Trump himself, enunciated support for Israeli control over West Jerusalem only. Are these the hidden thoughts, of the many countries thinking of moving their embassies to Jerusalem?
It’s the Tenth of Tevet, and Jerusalem is under siege again!
Ariel Natan Pasko, an independent analyst and consultant, has a Master's Degree specializing in International Relations, Political Economy & Policy Analysis. His articles appear regularly on numerous news/views and think-tank websites and in newspapers. His latest articles can also be read on his archive: The Think Tank by Ariel Natan Pasko.
(c) 2018/5779 Pasko