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Palestinian Partner responds to US President's Announcement on Jerusalem

"Personally and as an ecumenical church organization serving Palestinian refugees, I find the move by President Trump as very ill advised on a number of points:

First, the Trump Administration is preparing a plan for the solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – how can you preempt this plan by taking a unilateral decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Especially so since Jerusalem was agreed between Israelis and Palestinians in the Oslo Accords to be discussed in the concluding part of the peace process.

Second, the US image as a neutral broker for peace between Israel and Palestinians receives a serious blow.

Third, the US image in the Arab and Muslim world among the masses, politicians are least concern, is damaged for some time to come. I doubt that whatever the US would do to improve its image would really change the negative image that President Trump’s decision has evoked among the masses.

Fourth, the decision ignores that Jerusalem is a city for humanity, as the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem have stated in their November 1994 Memorandum on Jerusalem as the Place for Roots. In the Memorandum, in keeping with international consensus, the Heads of Churches called on Palestinians and Israelis to negotiate on the future of the city and to make it a city where Jews, Christians and Muslims can live side by side and feel free as equal citizens of the city. I also would like to refer to the Vatican position on Jerusalem which calls on the two peoples, Palestinians and Israelis, to work together towards a solution acceptable to both of their peoples and to make Jerusalem and Bethlehem an open place where all visitors and pilgrims, together with the local faithful, have an unhindered access.

Fifth, the Arab and Muslim Heads of States have repeatedly called for East Jerusalem to be the Capital of the State of Palestine and they linked that with the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 which if Israel accepts would mean recognition by 57 Arab and Muslim countries of the State of Israel.

Sixth and most important – the United States, like other countries, has subscribed to the fact that East Jerusalem is occupied territory and that the future of Jerusalem would be determined through negotiations between the two parties.

Seventh, the decision by President Trump is problematic with respect to the right given to Jordan in its treaty of peace with Israel that it has a special role to play in preserving Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.

My conclusion is that given the above points, President Trump’s decision does not make sense. It simply does not add up. It further drags all of us down into the abyss of a hopeless future with no peace prospects on the horizon. We were waiting to see the plan for peace by the Trump Administration but if the decision on Jerusalem is an indication of what to come in the plan, then may God save us from the visions of peace coming out from President Trump and his entourage.

Relevant Statistics on the Old City of Jerusalem for your consideration

Some of the statistics by the Israeli issued Yearbook of Jerusalem points out that for 2015 there were 36,000 people living within the walled old city of Jerusalem. Of these 26,000+ are Muslims; 6,000+ are Christians and 3,000+ are Jews. These statistics reflect the need to have a solution acceptable to all in the city and hence Trump’s decision does not touch on the realities of life in the city where almost 40% of the population out of 850,000+ is Palestinian. Best regards on this Advent Season.

Dr. Bernard Sabella
Executive Secretary
Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees

On the Decision on Jerusalem

Why is it when a glimmer of hope seems arising
And when people have accommodated to their conflict with each other
And positions are hardened on opposite polar sides
And all are accustomed to conflict and work out some accommodation
A decision is made to recognize and not to recognize
And people get agitated as they feel hurt
And believe that cliques of politicians in distant places
Determine their future by neglecting their past
By negating their aspirations, their narratives
Their roots and their expectations for their children
And the future of children also of those across the divide.

Why is it that decisions are made in closed quarters
That negate the essence of peacemaking
And force on peoples a worldview that contradicts
Their experiences, their history and their rootedness
In the city of the forefathers who passed on their attachment
To the city where their forefathers were born and Where they have lived, loved and grew families
That were blessed into generations attached by their turn
To their city.

Why is it that the resident of the White House
And the clique around him spend weeks and months in briefings
After briefings in order to make decisions that would hurt and upset
People living oceans away from them
Who never hurt them or their country
And who want simply to exercise their right to their city
And to find ways to mold a future that would eventually
Bring adversaries to accept each other and to live side by side

Why is it that negation of the experiences and rights of others
Seems to guide policies and decisions to the neglect of basic reason
And in radical depart from traditions so much cherished
By the people of the United States of America.

Why it is that might has replaced right And what do we tell our children, their children
And the children of the world
About fairness, justice, compassion
That have been overridden by gut politics
And heartless politicians trapped into their narrow spaces
Where are the values championed by Americans
And that have made America great in the past
Are they gone forever and are the moral power, stamina and courage
Of the founders of the good ole USA been replaced
Never to reassert themselves.
I cry for you America if this is to be.

Bernard Sabella

December 8, 2017