(RNS) — Jerusalem has been the epicenter of the Jewish faith for more than 3,000 years, and the holy city has been the capital of the modern state of Israel for 70 years. By recognizing Jerusalem’s status and moving the U.S. Embassy there, President Trump has acknowledged these simple facts.
The new American policy concerning Jerusalem constitutes equal — rather than special — treatment of the Jewish state. Countries have the right to choose their capitals and the U.S. traditionally places its embassies in those cities. In moving the embassy, we are finally treating Israel with the same dignity and respect offered to the other nations of the world.
Yet there have been two arguments commonly advanced against our new policy concerning Jerusalem. First, some claim that this policy will hinder peace in the region. Second, some assert that the policy has caused a violent Palestinian reaction. Both arguments fail upon any scrutiny.
Contrary to the shortsighted speculation of some, the new U.S. policy toward Jerusalem will advance peace in the region. If there is any chance for peace to come to fruition, the Palestinians must first accept that Israel will never be destroyed and that the city of Jerusalem will always be the Jewish state’s capital. The international community does the Palestinians a great disservice by indulging their leadership’s anti-Semitism, and that includes the effort to rewrite the Jewish people’s historical connection to Israel’s capital city. The new U.S. policy on Jerusalem strikes an important blow to the Palestinian leadership’s peace-killing fantasies.
The tragic violence that occurred on Monday (May 14) when Palestinians, led by terrorists, sought to breach Israel’s borders and harm Israeli citizens was yet another example of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority finding an excuse to incite their people to violence. In 2015 and 2016, the same Palestinian leaders lied to their people about a change in the status of the Temple Mount in order to incite the rash of stabbings and car rammings we saw during those years. Before those attacks, we saw years of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. And before that, suicide bombings across Israel.
Those looking for a way to excuse violence can always find a reason, but such violence and terror are never justified. Moreover, democracies cannot bend to the will of violent mobs. We do not capitulate to terrorists. Our foreign policy is dictated by the will of the American people, not the threats of Palestinian militants.
Rare is the leader with the courage to stand up to the naysayers and the mobs who would prevent those bold actions that positively advance the course of human history. Trump’s decision to formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. Embassy there shows that he is just such a leader.
When I delivered the benediction at the ceremony opening the embassy, I prayed for the peace of Jerusalem and all its inhabitants. Since Israel reunited its capital in 1967, people of all faiths are welcome to inhabit and visit this city. All are free to worship at their holy sites and pray to God in any manner and any language they see fit.
Israel is a blessing to the world. It is a free and democratic society that treats all of its citizens equally. It is through Jewish principles and democratic ideals that today Jerusalem is far more peaceful than ever before. It is thus clear that the decision to update American policy regarding the holy city was both right and righteous.
(Pastor John Hagee is the founder and chairman of Christians United for Israel. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)