The status of Jerusalem is among the core issues being discussed at the U.S.-brokered peace talks that began on August 14 between Israel and the Palestinians. This is the first direct negotiations between the two sides after five years of diplomatic stalemate.
Israel’s government considers Jerusalem its political and religious center, and is unwilling to divide it. The government holds to the 1980 Israeli Basic Law, which states that “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel.”
However, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas argues that no agreement can exist with Israel without a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is central to Judaism, Islam and Christianity. The al Aqsa mosque in the Old City is Islam’s third-holiest site. The mosque is located on the Temple Mount, which Jews consider to be Judaism’s holiest site.
Jordan occupied East Jerusalem until 1967, when Israel captured it during the Six-Day War. Since then, Jewish neighborhoods have been interwoven within the Arab core of East Jerusalem. The Jewish population now numbers 200,000, which nearly equals the number of Arabs in East Jerusalem.
Wednesday’s meeting marks Israel and the Palestinians’ third attempt since 2000 to agree on the terms of a Palestinian state.
[SOUNDBITE: Mahdi Abdul Hadi, Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs]
“It is a very unique city. People believe that this is the shortest spot on Earth to heaven. People believe in this whether they are Muslim or Christian or Jews. So it is faith, it is people, it is religion, and then comes to the political side of it. It cannot be and should not be under any circumstances exclusive to one people at the expense of other people. That is why the Palestinian position should be an open city, a shared city, two capitals, two flags, two municipalities. Jerusalem cannot be and should not be a closed city.”
The Bible prophesies that half of Jerusalem will be taken captive. This indicates that Israel will not willingly give up sovereignty over East Jerusalem. The captivity of half of Jerusalem is the first domino to fall leading to the return of Jesus Christ. To understand these pivotal events surrounding Jerusalem, read Zechariah—The Sign of Christ’s Imminent Return. ▪