As Trump Recognises Jerusalem As Israel’s Capital: Israelites & Arabs Who Have A Valid Claim To Jerusalem?

Feature Article As Trump Recognises Jerusalem As Israels Capital: Israelites  Arabs Who Have A Valid Claim To Jerusalem?

Recent events
On 6 December 2017, Mr Donald Trump, the President of the United States of Americareversed decades of U.S. policy and recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and declared that he will move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In fact, the idea is not newbecausethe US Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995 to movethe US embassy to Jerusalem by 1999.

Furthermore, former Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama all made a relocation of the US Embassy a campaign message as follows:

  • ‘I have always wanted to move our embassy to West Jerusalem. We have a designated site there. I have not done so because I didn’t want to do anything to undermine our ability to help to broker a secure and fair and lasting peace for Israelis and for Palestinians.’ (Mr Clinton, 2000)

  • ‘Something will happen when I'm president: as soon as I take office I will begin the process of moving the US ambassador to the city Israel has chosen as its capital.’ (George W Bush, 2000)

  • Any negotiated agreement between Israel and the Palestinian people ‘must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognised and defensible borders. Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.’ (Mr Obama, 2008)

It seems obvious that the three immediate former US presidents all had the desire to relocate the US Embassy to Jerusalem, yetciting security concernsthey signed a waiver every six months to keep it in Tel Aviv.

As expected the Muslim world is very angry at Mr. Trump and has adopted the following measures:

Mr Abbas, the Palestinian President declared that ‘Jerusalem is and always will be the capital of Palestine.’

President Erdogan of Turkey also stated that ‘Israel will never have any legitimacy in Jerusalem.’

  • A Turkish sponsored resolution at the United Nations by which the General Assembly voted 128 to 9 (with 35 abstentions) demanding the United States to rescind its decisionon Jerusalem. Although, the resolution is nonbinding and largely symbolic, it indicates the extent of the anger of the Muslim world.

Before the vote, Mr. Trump declared that ‘They take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars, and then they vote against us. Well, we're watching those votes.’ ‘Let them vote against us. We’ll save a lot. We don’t care.’ Similarly, Ms Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the UN stated that ‘The President will be watching this vote carefully and has requested I report back on those countries who voted against us.’ ‘We will take note of each and every vote on this issue.’

After the UN General Assembly vote, the Israeli Prime Mr.Benjamin Netanyahudeclared that‘Israel completely rejects this preposterous resolution’ and ‘Jerusalem is our capital. Always was, always will be.’

The failure of the peace process
The discussion above indicates clearly that tempers are high and the intermittent conflict between Israelites and the Palestinians will not resolve any time soon.

The Arabs and Israelis have engaged in several wars since the modern state of Israel was established in 1948. While some Arab countries have signed peace treaties with Israel ( Egypt–Israel 1979) and ( Jordan–Israel 1994), all effort to find a lastingpeace between the Israelites and the Palestinians has proved elusive due to misunderstanding of how to share the land between them. However, to better understand why the peace effort has not succeeded we need to understand the historical and religious contexts of the problem.

The time line of the history, the settlementson and conquests of the Land

The information below summarises the history of, and the settlement on the land.

According to the Bible, God promised to give the land of the modern State of Israel and the Greater Palestine to the Abraham and his descendants (Gen 12:7, ‘To your offspring I will give this land’). Further details about the promise will be discussed later.

Circa 1000 BC, David, the 2ndKing of Israel ruled a united kingdom of Israel on the land and established Jerusalem as his capital. Solomon, the son of David succeeded his father after his death. While David wanted to build a temple for God, God instructed that it was David’s son (Solomon) who would build him a temple because David had shed too much blood and fought many wars ( 1 Chronicles 17:1 -4, 22:18). Accordingly, Solomon built the temple (1 Kings 6:2)

After the death of Solomon in 931 BC, the kingdom was divided into two—(1) the South Kingdome consisting of the tribes of Benjamin and Judah; and (2) the Northern Kingdom comprising the other ten tribes.

In 721 BC, due to disobedience to God, the Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom and took them captives. The captives never returned to Israel and are still known as the lost tribes of Israel.

In 586 BC, KingNebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem , destroyed the Solomon temple and took the Jews captives.

In 538 BC, the Persians defeated the Babylonians and allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem, and also to rebuild the temple.

In 332 BC, Alexander the Great from Greece conquered the Persian Empire and Judea.

In 142 BC, the Maccabees revolted against the Greeks and the Judea once again became independent.

In 63 BC, the Romans conquered the Greek Empire including Judea, the Jews were granted some form of autonomy and this continued during the time of Jesus.

InMark 13:1-2, a disciple asked Jesus, ‘Teacher, look at the magnificent stones and buildings! Do you see all these great buildings? ’ Jesus replied. ‘ Not one stone here will be left on another; everyone will be toppled. ’ As Jesus predicted, in 67 AD, the Romans under General Vespasian and his son Titus mounted a systematic military campaign against Jewswhen the Jews rebelled against the Roman rule. Despite facing a stiff opposition, the Romans conqueredJudea in 70 AD, and totally destroyed Jerusalem and the temple.

In 638 AD, the Arab Caliph Omar invaded Jerusalem and built Al-Aqsa mosque on the ruins of the Jewish temple. Between that period and 1917, several Arabic warriors invaded Jerusalem including a Cairo based Fatimid dynasty in 969, Seljuk Turks in 1071, the Crusaders in 1099, Kurdish General Saladin in 1187 and Mamelukes in 1291. In 1517, the Ottoman Empire ruled the entire Middle East including Jerusalem until 1917.

In 1917, the British GeneralAllenby conquered Jerusalem and the British Government made the Balfour Declarationpromising to establish a Jewish National Home in Palestine. Meanwhile, the first and second major waves of European Jews returned to Palestine in 1880 and 1904-14 respectively.

In 1920, the Jewish-Arab cooperation broke down and the Arab rioters attacked Jews in Jerusalem. Meanwhile, the Jews elected their first Knesset (parliamentarians) in in the same year.

In 1922, the League of Nations (the UN predecessor) approved a mandate to establish a Jewish national home.

In 1922-23, the Arabs rejected the British attempt to establish a powering sharing arrangement in Palestine between the Arabs and the Jews. Again in1937, the Arabs rejected the British proposal to create Jewish state in 20% of the land in Palestine and Palestinian state in the rest. Jews also rejected the plan in 1939.

In 1947, the UN decided to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states backed by UN Resolution 181. The UN Partition Plan also proposed making Jerusalem an international city by establishing a special international regime with free access for everyone to all the holy sites inthe city. The Arabs rejected the plan.

On 14 May 1948, David Ben-Gurion, the head of the Jewish Agency, announced the establishment of the State of Israel, which was recognised by some nations including the US.

Shortly after the proclamation of Israel as a state, 5 Arab nations including Egypt , Jordan and Syria attacked Israel. However, at the end of the war, the Jews had extended significantly the land they controlled. About 700,000 Palestinian Arabs fled or were expelled from their homes in the area where Israel gained control and similar Jews also migrated to Israel including those expelled from Arab countries.

Lastly, between 5 and 10 June 1967, the Israelites fought the Arab nations of Egypt, Jordan and Syria in a 6 day war. Egypt had planned to attack Israel and Israel preemptively attacked and destroyed almost the entire Egyptian military aircrafts. Egypt persuaded Syria and Jordan to join the war but Israel killed about 20,000 of the Arabs, while the Arabs killed about 700 of the Israelis. Meanwhile, Israel seized control of East Jerusalem , West Bank and the Golan Heights .

Furthermore, despite the concerted effort by the world leaders to resolve the problem, the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians has continued intermittently without any enduring ceasefire.

The status of Jerusalem remains the most contentious aspect of the whole peace process. Judaism, Christianity and Islam all have sacred sites in Jerusalem. The area of the Temple Mount in East Jerusalem is where the Temple of Solomon once stood. However, the site now has the Islamic Dome of the Rock considered the 3rd holiest site for Muslims. As stated before, Caliph Omar was the first Arab to conquer Jerusalem in 638 AD; he built Al-Aqsa mosque exactly where the Solomon and the 2ndtemples of the Jews had stood before they were destroyed.

Meanwhile, the Jews still go and pray on the Western Wall (Wailing Wall) at the base of the Mount as they are not allowed in the temple itself. Accordingly, the Jews yearn to have a religious presence on Temple Mount itself; to them the religious relevance of Jerusalem transcends time because of its past, present and future religious significance. On the hand,the Arabs are fighting to gain a total control of(East) Jerusalem where their 3rd holiest temple is located.

The basis of the Arabs claim to (East) Jerusalem

Dr Usama Hasan, an astronomer, imam and senior researcher at the Quilliam Foundation discusses the following as the basis of the Muslim claim to Jerusalem.

  • Jerusalem (known in Arabic as Al-Quds, the Holy City), was Islam’s first direction of prayer (qibla) before it was changed to Mecca. It is believed that when Prophet Muhammad began his mission he followed the Jews and Christians tradition in praying while facing Jerusalem. However, the change occurred later as he had wished from God to pray facing Mecca. These sentiments and the change of qibla for Muslims are recorded in the Qur’an 2:142-152, where the qibla for Jews and Christians is confirmed as being Jerusalem.

  • Jerusalem was a key stage of Prophet Muhammad’s nocturnal spiritual journey (known as al-Isra’ wal-Mi’raj) during which he is said to have had a vision of God. It is believed that the nocturnal journey began in Mecca and ended in Jerusalem (at the Temple Mount). The journey is described in Qur’an 17:1 as follows: ‘Holy is He Who carried His servant by night from the Holy Mosque (in Makkah) to the farther Mosque (in Jerusalem) whose surroundings We have blessed that We might show him some of Our Signs.’

  • An Islamic tradition claims that the Prophet travelled miraculously from Mecca to Jerusalem and then upwards through the seven heavens, resulting in a direct conversation with and/or vision of God. Before his ascension, the Prophet is said to have led all the previous prophets of God including Biblical prophets in prayer. In this sense, Islam is said to be a continuation of Abrahamic faith. Accordingly, Muslims generally regard al-masjid al-aqsa (“the noble sanctuary”) as being “Solomon’s temple”, which has become Islam’s 3rd holiest place of pilgrimage.

  • The Islamic rule in Jerusalem lasted for 12 centuries, longer than the Jewish, Roman, Persian, Christian rules or any other rule there. Therefore, the Arabs have long tradition in Palestine. Accordingly, for many Muslims, Jerusalem is a symbol of resistance to Israeli occupation of Arab territories and the status of Jerusalem is one of the key issues that needs to be resolved as part of any future peace deal between Israelis and Arabs.

Furthermore, Jerusalem features prominently in some Islamic eschatological prophecies about the end of the world. Interestingly, some of the prophecies discuss the return of Jesus Christ to defeat the forces of the antichrist (Al-Masih ad-Dajjal) at the end of the world. According to Abu Ibrahim (2011), ‘Muslims do believe Jesus (Isa in Arabic) will return to earth to establish justice … he is to do battle with his opposite, the False Messiah…’

Lastly, according to an Islamic Hadith (i.e. Islamic reports describing the words, actions, or habits of the Islamic prophet Muhammad ) cited in the Wikipedia, Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said:

  • ‘…Then Jesus son of Mary will descend at the white minaret to the east of Damascus. He will then catch him up at the gate of Ludd and kill him.’
  • ‘…The flourishing state of Jerusalem will be when Yathrib (now called Medina) is in ruins, the ruined state of Yathrib will be when the great war comes, the outbreak of the great war will be at the conquest of Constantinople and the conquest of Constantinople when the Dajjal (Antichrist) comes forth…’

The basis of Israeli claim to Jerusalem
According to the Bible, God promised Abraham to give the land of Israel to him and his descendants for perpetual inheritance (Gen 17:7-8 ‘I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come … I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojourning, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.’) (Please see also Genesis 12:7, Deut. 34:4).

Furthermore, Exodus 23:31 provides the boundaries of the land as follows: ‘I will fix your boundary from the Red Sea to the sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the River Euphrates’ (see also Genesis 13:14-17; 15:18-21). The demarcation of the land appears to be the entire Land of Palestine including the modern state of Israel and the Palestinian territories.

More importantly, in Gen 17:18-21, Abraham requested God to make his only son at the time, Ishmael (who is the forefather of the Arabs)the heir of the covenant (i.e. to inherit the land God had promised him). God refused categorically that it would be Isaac and his descendants who would inherit the covenant and the land:

Abraham said to God, ‘Oh that Ishmael might live before You!’ But God said, ‘No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son … I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him…and I will make him a great nation. But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year.’

The passage is very profound because at the time of Abraham’s request, Isaac had not been conceived;yet God emphatically rejected Ishmael because Isaac was the one to become the heir to the covenant.

Furthermore, it is stated in Genesis 26:1-3 that there was famine in the land and Isaac had wanted to go to Egypt but ‘ The LORD appeared to him and said, d o not go down to Egypt; stay in the land of which I shall tell you … for to you and to your descendants I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath which I swore to your father Abraham.’

In addition, according to Gen 25:5-6, though Abraham had other children beside Ishmael and Isaac, Abraham ‘gave all that he had to Isaac; but to the sons of his concubines, Abraham gave gifts while he was still living, and sent them away from his son Isaac eastward, to the land of the east. ’ Clearly, this was done to prevent the other children from claiming part-ownership of the promised-land.

Also, despite Isaac had two children, Jacob and Esau, God promised to give the land only to Jacob. God informed Jacob in Gen 35:12, ‘The land which I gave to Abraham and Isaac, I will give it to you, And I will give the land to your descendants after you’ (see also 28:12-13). It is clear that God narrowed down the inheritors of the land and not all descendants of Abraham were part of it.

Furthermore, Deut 4:40 states ‘Keep his decrees and commands … so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the LORD your God gives you for all time.’ The passage indicates that God’s covenant about the land has both conditional and unconditional terms. The conditional term was that they would only live continuously on the land if only they continued to obey God. On the hand, the unconditional term of the covenant was that the land was given to themfor all times [i.e. permanently, forever] without any condition. Therefore, even when they went into exile for disobeying God, they would one day come back to repossess the land as the rightful owners. This is clearly indicated in Deut 30:1-5 and Ezekiel 36:24, 28.

More so, God chose Jerusalem for his own name sake to be the religious and administrative capital of Israel. This is clearly stated in 2 Chronicles 6:5-6 as follows:

‘Since the day that I brought My people from the land of Egypt, I did not choose a city out of all the tribes of Israel in which to build a house that My name might be there … but I have chosen Jerusalem that My name might be there, and I have chosen David to be over My people Israel. ’

This passage clearly indicates that it was not by accident that David established his administrative capital in Jerusalem but by the providence of God, and as David was chosen by God, so did God choose Jerusalem.

Jerusalem features highly in Christian eschatology—the Day of the Lord

As discussed in the preceding section, God’s covenant about the land was partly conditional that if the people would not obey him they would sometimes be exiled from the land. However, the Bible also teaches that Jerusalem will feature prominently in events immediately leading to 2nd coming of the Lord to judge the world.

For example,David prophesied that many nations will conspire to destroy Jerusalem (Psalm 83:4-5,‘Come, they say, let us destroy them as a nation, so that Israel’s name is remembered no more.With one mind they plot together; they form an alliance against you.’ It is important to note that each of the previous destructions of Israel was carried by an individual nation and not a group of nations.

More importantly, the entire chapter of Zachariah 14 discusses the 2nd coming of Jesus as follows:

  • verses 2 – 4, ‘For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished and half of the city exiled, but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south.’

  • v9, ‘And the LORD will be king over all the earth; in that day the LORD will be the only one, and His name the only one.’

  • v11, ‘People will live in it, and there will no longer be a curse, for Jerusalem will dwell in security.’

  • v12, ‘’Now this will be the plague with which the LORD will strike all the peoples who have gone to war against Jerusalem; their flesh will rot while they stand on their feet, and their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongue will rot in their mouth.’

The prophecy explains in detail how before Jesus returns to judge the world, the nations of the world will surround Jerusalem seeking to destroy it. While some have suggested that the prophecy might have been fulfilled this cannot be the case because several details and aspects of the prophecy are yet to be fulfilled.

For example, according to the Pulpit Commentary, the fact that [only] half of the city will be exiled, but the rest of the people will not be cut off means‘the prophecy cannot apply to the destruction of the city by the Romans; for, according to the account of Josephus ('Bell. Jud.,' 6:09), the city itself was razed to the ground, and all the inhabitants were either put to the sword or sold for slaves.’

Similarly, the Barnes' Notes on the Bible states:

‘I Will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle - This is a feature which belongs to the end. It had been dwelt upon by Joel; Joel 3:2-9 , Joel 3:11 ; Ezekiel spoke of the "many nations" Ezekiel 38:6 , Ezekiel 38:15 , Ezekiel 38:22 which should come under Gog. John foretells of a universal strife at the end, when "The spirits of devils, working miracles, go forth unto the king; of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty" Revelation 16:14 .’

The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges also states:

‘It is impossible satisfactorily to adapt the terms of this prophecy, either to the taking of Jerusalem under the Maccabees, or to its destruction by the Romans … It should moreover be observed that there is no word here of the city being destroyed.’

Clearly the commentaries discussed above support the view that Zachariah 14 is an end time prophecy, indicating that the nations in the world will one day assemble in Jerusalem seeking to destroy it. In addition, Rev 16:4 states there will be demonic spirits that perform signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.

Moreover, Joel 3:1-2 sates ‘For behold, in those days and at that time, When I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat. Then I will enter into judgment with them there On behalf of My people and My inheritance, Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; a nd they have divided up my land.’

Lastly, the Lord declares in Zachariah 12:2-4 as follow:

‘ I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling. Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem. On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves. On that day I will strike every horse with panic and its rider with madness, declares the Lord. I will keep a watchful eye over Judah, but I will blind all the horses of the nations.’

The above mentioned prophecies and others indicate clearly that Jerusalem will play a significant role in the end time. While the prophecies were written several 1000s of years ago, the events that continue to unfolding around Jerusalem indicate that the prophecies will definitely come to pass.

From the foregoing discussion it appears that the Israelis have more solid historical and religious claim to the city than the Arabs. Firstly, as indicated before, the Bible states plainly that the land was provided to Jews through their forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In fact, none of the basis that Muslims use to claim the land comes directly from the Quran. They are all based on beliefs and traditions developed over time.

Furthermore, David, the 2nd King of the Israelites established Jerusalem as his administrative Capital and made it a national worship center. Moreover, his son, Solomon built the magnificent Temple in Jerusalem and made it a house of prayer for the nation. And while the Muslims are making historical and religious claim to the place through Abraham, who is their ancestor as well, the Bible states plainly that Abraham bore their forefather Ishmael through an illegitimate means and when Abraham requested God that he should inherit him, God refused categorically because God chose Isaac and his descendants to inherit the covenant and the land. Furthermore, as discussed earlier, God narrowed down the inheritors of the land to descendants of Jacob despite that Esau was also the son of Isaac and indeed the first of the two twins.

Moreover, the name “Jerusalem”is said to have occurred 806 times in the Bible, 660 times in the Old Testament and 146 times in the New Testament. However despite that by the time Prophet Mohammed, Jerusalem had been a city and spiritual centre for more than 1,000 years, Jerusalem is not mentioned even once directly in the Quran. It is only some passages that refer to terms like the “Holy Land” that have been interpreted to mean Jerusalem. For example:

  • My people! Go into the holy land which Allah hath ordained for you. Turn not in flight, for surely ye turn back as losers (Quran 5:21).

  • Exalted is He Who took His Servant by night from al-Masjid al-Haraam to al-Masjid al-Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing (Quran 17:1).

In the first example, the “Holy Land” has been assumed to mean Jerusalem. However the interpreters of the Quran have different view about the exact area of the Holy Land mentioned here, as Ash-Shaam (the Levant), Jericho and Egypt have all been cited as the possible location of the said “Holy Land”.

Similarly, in Quran 17:1, the exact place where thefarther Mosque (al-Masjid al-Aqsa) was located was not mentioned. It has only been assumed to be Jerusalem, which may not necessary be the case.

However, as stated earlier the Bible has extensive and solid references to Jerusalem including God making David to choose Jerusalem as his administrative capital and Solomon as a place to build a temple of God for the Israelites to worship.

In addition, the Muslims have two other places (Mecca and Medina) which they consider holier than Jerusalem. However, the Jerusalem is virtually the only holy place for the Jews and Christians. It is also imperative to state that all biblical references to Jerusalem are about East Jerusalem because the western part of the city is comparatively modern. Therefore, it appears the Muslims are being greedy for wanting to have East Jerusalem as their other holy place despite they already have two and were not the original owners of the place.

Meanwhile as already stated, Jews settled in Jerusalem 1,000s of years before the Arabs used force to occupy the place. It is even strange that they did not find any place in the city to build their temple except where Solomon once built the temple for the Israelites. In fact, it is also believed that the Muslim city of Medina (known in ancient times as Yathrib) washeavily inhabited by three Jewish tribes, the Banu Quynuqa , the Banu Qurayza , and the Banu Nadir since 6th century BC until Mohammed and his follower arrived there in 622 and later waged war against the Jewish. (see: &

It appears obvious from the foregoing discussion that both historically and religiously, the Jews have more legitimate claim to Jerusalem than the Arabs. Accordingly, the Almighty God has warned in Joel 3:2 that he will one day punish severely the people who have divided the land for themselves and scattered the Jewish abroad.

By Joseph Annor B.A (Majoring in Studies of Religions)

Donald Trump:What past US presidents have said about recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital:

Muslim Leaders Declare East Jerusalem the Palestinian Capital:

Defying Trump, U.N. General Assembly Condemns U.S. Decree on Jerusalem:

Jerusalem: Donald Trump threatens to cut aid to United Nations members over Israel capital vote:

Jerusalem is our capital. Always was, always will be:

Israeli–Palestinian peace process:

The History of Israel - Time Line:

Creation of Israel, 1948:

1948 Arab–Israeli War:

Six-Day War:

What is historical importance of Jerusalem?:

Abu Ibrahim (2011), DajjalAnti-Christ:

Al-Masih ad-Dajjal:

) Should Christians Support Moving the American Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem?

The Significance of Jerusalem to Christians:

The mention of Jerusalem in the Quran: