Irrespective of official communiqués, the future of Jerusalem is a major issue in the current secret negotiations between Israel’s PM Olmert and Abu Mazen, president of the PA. The extent of Olmert’s far reaching incipient concessions must be so outrageous that he has not disclosed them even to his own cabinet or even to the leadership of the Kadima party.
It is well known, however, that previous leftist Israeli governments, including those under PMs Rabin, Peres and Barak entertained the idea of conceding the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem to “Palestinian” Arab sovereignty, allowing the incipient “Palestinian State” to establish their capital in the Arab sector of a divided Jerusalem. Israeli advocates of a divided Jerusalem believe that this would achieve the desired peace with the Arabs, since Jerusalem is a great importance to them.
However, peace between Israel and Muslim Arabs is extremely unlikely in view of the Islamic premise that prohibits peace (not a ceasefire or truce) between Muslims and non-Muslim. As Islam is becoming more radicalized by the day, this religious Islamic prohibition of peace with non-Muslims has become dominant in the Islamic world. Moreover, because the Land of Israel was occupied by Muslims in the 7th century, religious Muslims believe that it belongs to Muslims for perpetuity. The Land of Israel, they call “Palestine”, is considered by Muslims as stolen property that must be regained as soon as there is a chance to do so. Therefore, according to religious Muslims, even a truce with the Jewish state must be of the shortest duration possible. Consequently, the establishment of a new Arab state west of the River Jordan, which will very likely be a religion-driven Islamic state, must maintain an incipient or real war with the Jewish state.
A long-lasting truce (not peace!) between the Arabs and the Israelis can materialize only if Israel will have secure, defensible borders, and persistently be militarily strong enough to discourage Arab aggression, invasion and eventual conquest.
The very last thing Israel should then accept, under any condition, is to have an international border intertwine within the residential neighborhood of Jerusalem, Israel’s national capital.
It goes without saying that if Jerusalem was more vulnerable than it is already today, the Muslims will make Israel’s capital the prime target of an Arab onslaught. Capturing all of Jerusalem will be a crucial prize worth fighting for.
Moreover, the establishment of East Jerusalem as the capital of Arab Palestine under the same historic name “Jerusalem” (even if they call it “The Holy city” “al Quds”) legitimizes the Arab claim to the rest of the Jewish state. Arab “Palestine” will then regard their Jerusalem as its temporarily divided capital that MUST eventually be united, by force if needed.
Legitimizing Jerusalem as an Arab capital, even if pertains just to a part of the city, delegitimizes Jerusalem as the exclusive capital of the Jewish people, substantially enhancing the Arab claim that all of the State of Israel is illegitimate. This is the main reason for the Arab’s insistence on declaring Jerusalem as an Arab capital. It would be the first effective step in driving out the Jews from their homeland. These fundamental, far reaching implications of declaring Jerusalem as an Arab capital, seem to escape the current Israeli political leadership, that may even contemplate moving the state’s capital back to Tel Aviv, where it was before 1967.
What they may be forgetting is that Jerusalem is not just the administrative center of the Jewish state, but has been the capital of the Jewish nation for 3000 years, since the kingdom of David. The conquest of Jerusalem would entail the eventual surrender of the entire Jewish sovereign state, as it happened already twice in Jewish history.
As I have pointed out years ago in “Targeting symbols” (Israel Insider December 17, 2003; Ch. 37 in “Israel and Its Future”, 2004), Jerusalem is a prime symbol in Judaism and it is in Christianity. Islamic conquest of Jerusalem (or just conceding that Jerusalem is an Arab capital) would be construed by Muslims as proof of domination of Islam over both these two world-religions.
Such an unsurpassed potential victory would herald Islamic world domination. If Jerusalem was divided and thus became an easy target for conquest, this will be a sufficient incentive to abolish any truce with the Israelis as soon as the Arabs feel ready to attack. This could happen within a year or two, but certainly in not more than within a decade from the time Jerusalem would be divided.
The current Israeli political leadership deludes itself that the establishment of the capital of a Muslim state in the Arab sector of Jerusalem and Muslim control of the mosques on the Temple Mount, will satisfy the Muslims’ aspirations, thus putting and end to the conflict. Recent history in Gaza showed that the Arabs will continue to follow a war path until they destroy the State of Israel.
If they have been doing this when in Gaza, where they have been at a tremendous disadvantage strategically and economically, being dependent on Israel for water, fuel and electricity, and where their shelling of Israeli border towns has had just a marginal effect on the Jewish state, imagine what they will do if the Knesset was within reach of Arab artillery from the Temple Mount or the Mount of Olives, and Jewish pedestrians in the streets of Jerusalem were to be had like ducks in a shooting gallery. This will be going on while suicide terrorist commandos continue to infiltrate from Arab to Jewish quarters. No protective barrier, no matter how high will prevent this.
The IDF will not be able to defend the Jewish neighborhoods by shelling Arab quarters for fear of international furor, just as it refrains from doing this today in Gaza. The Israeli capital would be then paralyzed and abandoned by most of its residents within days of well coordinated attacks. It would then take only little more time to “unite” Jerusalem under Muslim domination.
To defeat the Jewish state, if Jerusalem was divided, the Arabs would not have to shell Ben-Gurion Airport or launch missiles into the center of Tel-Aviv. Capturing Jerusalem would be sufficient.
The worldwide political consequences would evidently be hardly imaginable. Since this scenario is so likely to occur, the division of Jerusalem, surrendering parts of it to Arab rule is truly asinine.
Keeping Israeli security forces in the Arab parts of the city to prevent such an outcome would not change the situation from what it is today. It would be “occupation” again, not peace. Using international forces to defend Jewish Jerusalem would be as effective as their current presence in South Lebanon.
Furthermore, even before they capture Jewish Jerusalem, and possibly the rest of Israel, the Arabs will systematically destroy all archeological evidence for Jewish or Christian historical claims to the city, as they are doing already today on the Temple Mount. They will also destroy synagogues and churches or convert them into mosques as did recently in the Gaza Strip and in Samaria, in line with what Muslims have been doing throughout history.
It might be enough for them to destroy all Jewish and Christian testimonials from the old city of Jerusalem to signal to the Islamic world that Judeo-Christian civilization is being wiped out by Islam.
Finally, once Jerusalem is captured, the Arabs will rid the Middle East from all non-Muslims. They will follow the script of their war with the crusaders, when they methodically conquered all remaining Christian enclaves in Palestine and Lebanon after the conquest of Jerusalem. Consequently, the Arabs will have to conquer and destroy Tel-Aviv to complete their victory. The Jews in Tel Aviv will then have little more to defend than their lives and property. This will not be enough when fighting an ideology-driven enemy. If Jerusalem falls so does Tel-Aviv.
Why then do American politicians entertain the possibility of a divided city, and even seem to support it? Since the presidency of Bill Clinton the US has been advocating the division of Jerusalem. The US Administration seems to have no long-term strategy, as it tries to appease Arabs it considers friendly to the US. Trying to meet some immediate objectives in the conflict with Iran, it ignores long term disastrous consequences of such a policy.
Since the destruction of Israel is a declared goal of the Arab World, the US might sacrifice the Jewish state to meet political needs of regimes it now considers friendly. Let us remember that all Muslim rulers, from Iran to Nigeria and from Malaysia to Morocco, with the possible exception of the King of Jordan, will be happy to see Israel disappear from the Middle East.
For years, our Department of State has considered Israel as a liability rather than an asset. The 2005 Lebanon debacle helped to reinforce this view. Thus there has been no problem in putting the existence of Israel in jeopardy by creating another Arab country west of the River Jordan, and thereby reducing the sovereignty of the Jewish people over Jerusalem, their ancient national capital.
However, it is truly amazing that a decisive majority in the current Israeli government sees Jerusalem as a liability rather than an existential asset of the Jewish nation. The current president of Israel, Shimon Peres stated that history, which includes the historical rights of the Jewish nation to their homeland, is not relevant in today’s world. This is an accepted, universalistic, anti-nationalistic, anti-religious point of view.
For Peres and his friends, and there are many of them in Israel, Jerusalem is just another city that can be shared with Arabs, if necessary for some immediate political gain. Peres seems not to realize that he presides over a country the very existence of which is based on history as well as on religion. In brief, Peres, Olmert and their ilk are ready “to cut their nose to spite their face.”
Our life is driven by symbols. There are purely political symbols like the Capitol and the White House, Whitehall, the Kremlin or Tiananmen Square, and there are religious political symbols like the Vatican, Mecca and Jerusalem.
Jerusalem symbolizes for Jews the Jewish temple, the residence of the Holy One, the throne of God, in short, the one and only Holy City. At the same time it symbolizes the capital of King David’s kingdom and the place where the Messiah, the descendent of King David, will reign again over the Jewish nation. Another symbol is the Kingdom of Heaven, “Jerusalem of the above,” which manifests Jerusalem in an abstract manner. All these religious and political symbols of Jerusalem merge in the concept of Zionism. Zion is the name of one the hills on which Jerusalem was built, like the Palatine Hill of Rome, symbolizes that whole city.
Zionism is an intrinsic part of Judaism. It is the urge of Jews to gain sovereignty over the capital of their ancient homeland. This is why Muslims are so eager to destroy Zionism. They justifiably understand (better than many Jews, unfortunately) that if they eradicate Zionism once and for all, Judaism will be no more. They believe that if they conquer Jerusalem and destroy all evidence for Jewish presence there, they will have eliminated the essence of Zionism and thereby humiliated and effectively abolished Judaism, even if some ethnic Jews survive. The war against the Jews, which that started in Arabia in 622, would then come to an end with a decisive victory.
Zionism is evidently closely related with messianism, the anticipation of the anointed Jewish king, a descendent of King David, who will rule over Jerusalem. Messianic Judaism, which flourished under heavy-handed Roman oppression in the 1st Century, produced Christianity – the belief that the anointed messiah has arrived and will soon reappear to his followers.
Like in Judaism, Jerusalem is central to Christianity, which expects Jesus to reappear in Jerusalem. This belief makes every Christian a Zionist. Conquest of the Holy City by Muslims should be, therefore, as devastating to believing Christians as it would be to religious Jews.
Moreover, the regained sovereignty over the Holy Land and over Jerusalem by Jewish Zionists has been interpreted by many Christians as fulfillment of ancient prophecies, which also heralded the coming of the Messiah. This has encouraged and dramatically augmented the movement of Christian Zionists.
The potential conquest of Jerusalem by Muslims due to shortsighted US foreign policies and because of the anti-Zionist (so called “post-Zionist”; actually, anti-Jewish) ideology of the current Israeli leadership, would not only devastate Judaism but deal a death blow to Christian Zionism.
The fall of Jerusalem would have far-reaching theological implications. Notwithstanding the recent reconciliation of Christians and Jews, frustrated Christians might accuse all Jews for having willfully given up the Holy Land, after God has helped them to regain it. It could than result in unprecedented misojudaism (hatred of Jews) by religious Christians. The worldwide Jewish remnants of the new impending catastrophe will not be supported and consoled, but scolded and despised by frustrated religious Christians. Christians might also accuse the Jews for the onslaught of Islam on Christianity that will not fail to take place following the fall of Jerusalem.
Michael Anbar , Ph.D., is Professor of Biophysics and Chairman of Dept. of Biophysical Sciences, Sch. of Medicine, Univ. of Buffalo (1977-2002, now retired). Previously, he was professor at the Weizmann Institute of Science and Deputy Director of the Soreq Nuclear Research Institute, in Israel. He actively participated in the wars of 1948,1956 and 1967, and is the author of Israel and its Future.