What does it mean for Israel that the United States has a new leader? Should we expect a repeat of previous policies, or will the President Biden and the new White House administration forge its own path?
Assuming the latter, these principles guide the U.S.-Israel relationship:
- Broad popular American support for Israel
- President Biden’s personal sympathy toward Israel
- Shared Judeo-Christian values
- America’s own strategic interests
- The desire to strengthen America’s most trusted Mideast ally
- The mutual desire to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons
- The positive momentum generated by the Abraham Accords
Regarding Jerusalem, specifically, it is critical to reinforce the importance of united Jerusalem under Israeli control. The new administration will be under intense pressure, both from within and without, to take steps liable to compromise the future of united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty.
We must refrain from freezing construction in Jewish neighborhoods in the eastern part of Jerusalem, where nearly half of Jerusalem’s 570,000 Jews live. Under the Obama administration, most construction in those neighborhoods was frozen for six years, though it did not bring the parties any closer to peaceful resolution.
One positive stabilizing sign is reflected in the Biden administration’s commitment not to roll back the reality of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem and the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The administration also expresses commitment to a “two-state solution” regarding Palestinians, while recognizing that the parties are not quickly returning to the negotiating table. U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken added his wish that neither party “takes steps that make the already difficult process even more challenging.”
There are multiple visions for a peaceful resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which include also the option of a two-state solution. Lovers of Israel and united Jerusalem must plan for a future that avoids the repetition of past mistakes.
Any peaceful resolution will need to have the agreement of both parties, and a commitment to stop incitement and dismantle all terror infrastructures and activities.
Even considering the option of a two-state solution, it must not include the disastrous division of Jerusalem into two capitals – due to multiple, historical, religious, social, safety and practical factors. Supporters of Israel and a united Jerusalem must adopt strategies to positively impact and inform, to ensure that rusty, failed and dangerous narratives regarding an Arab capital in Jerusalem are not reintroduced.
The following points can help to improve, educate and advocate for keeping Jerusalem united and secure. Share these facts with the American public and others who are wise enough to form an opinion, and with legislators on bipartisan sides of the aisle – at both the federal and state level.
Negatives of Divided Jerusalem
Religious Rights – Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for over 3,000 years – and never of any Arab or other entity. The only period when Jews did not live in Jerusalem was the 19 years of Jordan’s illegal occupation of the city between 1948-67. During that time, the Jewish quarter was destroyed, including multiple historical synagogues, and the Jews were not allowed to visit their holiest sites for even a short prayer.
Security Threat – Placing major parts of the holy city under Arab sovereignty is a high-risk security danger to residents and visitors. Almost all the strategic high ground in Jerusalem and its surroundings would be left under Arab control, with severe security risks to all residents. Prior to 1967, Arab snipers targeted Jewish pedestrians and residences, and areas near the partition were danger zones.
Today, Hamas and Fatah terrorists would have little trouble repeating this scenario – but with much greater intensity. Unfettered unrest and radicalism in a divided Jerusalem would quickly embolden jihadists to export their ideology to the U.S. and its allies.
Sustainability and Morale – Social and security unrest would cause large numbers of residents to leave Jerusalem permanently, thus weakening the capital city and the morale of the entire country. Tourism would drop drastically, and the city’s economy would cave.
Urban Development – In a scenario of divided Jerusalem, urban development and growth would be stifled. Israeli enforcement of the rule of law should continue to address all necessary issues, including illegal building, tax collection, municipal fees, and fighting crime. This will strengthen Israeli sovereignty over eastern Jerusalem, and the peaceful coexistence between all citizens – Jews, Muslims, and Christians.
United Jerusalem: Asset for all Peace-Loving People
A stable and strong Israel has successfully limited the success of radical nationalist movements in Lebanon, Jordan, and PLO-controlled areas. In addition, Israel assists America in intelligence-gathering and covert operations, among other projects. A weakened Jerusalem significantly weakens Israel and its value to the U.S.
Benefit of United Jerusalem for Christians
A large portion of the American Christian public feels strongly that Jerusalem must remain under Israeli control and sovereignty.
As demonstrated by pre-1967 history and current events around the world, Christian holy sites in Muslim-controlled areas do not fare well and are often destroyed. Only Israel can guarantee that Jerusalem remains an open city, embracing all religions with holy sites freely accessible to all.
Benefit of United Jerusalem for Arabs
Surveys of eastern Jerusalem Arabs by international groups repeatedly reflect that most Arab residents of Jerusalem do not want to be under Palestinian Authority or Hamas control, under which they would lose freedoms, financial stability, and other Israeli benefits.
Dividing Jerusalem would imperil the jobs of over 40,000 eastern Jerusalem Arabs who work in western Jerusalem daily – at salary scales often four times higher than in PA-controlled territory.
Hatem Abdel Kader, a former PA Minister for Jerusalem Affairs, has said, “Jerusalem is at the bottom of the [PA’s] list of priorities. The Israelis have a plan and vision for Jerusalem, while the Palestinians have nothing to offer.”