JERUSALEM (RNS) — I arrived here last week on the Palestinian group Hamas’ third “day of rage.” President Trump’s announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was still reverberating throughout the region yet in the epicenter of it all there was not an intifada in sight.
At a certain point following Friday’s prayers, journalists near the Damascus Gate outnumbered the protesters “three-to-one,” according to The Atlantic. And this was despite the very best efforts at provoking unrest by the terrorist agitators of Hamas, Hezbollah and their Iranian suitors.
The unexpected calm was in defiance of those using the Palestinian cause to put their own hegemonic aspirations in hyperdrive.
Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan had the audacity to appeal to the sacredness of Jerusalem for Christians even while his government imprisons pastors, confiscates ancient Christian property, and continues to threaten to convert the Hagia Sophia, a historic church, into a mosque.
Erdogan and his terrorist friends are very happy to use the Palestinians in pursuit of their own aims.
Yet, in Jerusalem, Palestinians were not taking the bait. It isn’t that they were happy about the United States’ decision. It’s just that many Palestinians are tired of being used as pawns.
They just want peace, and they want a brighter future. Some even appreciate the stability, security, rule of law, and prosperity brought to the city because of the democratic ideals of the State of Israel.
Evangelicals in the United States supported President Trump’s decision precisely because of their concern for the Palestinians in addition to their special relationship with Israel and the Jewish people.
Evangelicals are also tired of seeing innocent Palestinians abused and used by tyrants and terrorists.
As it turns out, I was actually first introduced to Jerusalem by Palestinians. For decades, Liberty University, where I used to teach, provided scholarships to Palestinian students based upon a promise that the university’s founder had made personally to the late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat.
Some of those students became my friends when I was in college. I thought of them again this weekend, as I watched the leaders of Iran and Turkey as well as Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Muslim Brotherhood try their best to instigate unrest among the Palestinians.
President Trump’s decision was supported by evangelicals — and by so many others — because it was legal, sensible and strategic, and it was a decision made in pursuit of peace with the Palestinians.
The president’s decision complied with a law passed by Congress over 20 years ago, a law defied by every president since and a law that was further affirmed in June in a unanimous vote in the U.S. Senate. It was sensible because Israel’s seat of government is in Jerusalem, and most Palestinians had for years conceded that the capital of Palestinian state would be East Jerusalem, inferring the western half would remain in Israel.
A mukhtar, or Muslim civil leader, in East Jerusalem told me on Sunday that this is why the protests were considerably quieter than the media predicted.
“Nothing has changed for us,” he said. “Israel’s Knesset, president and prime minister are here. Many of the ministries are here. The decision of the United States effects nothing of our existing reality.”
The president’s decision was also strategic because it does not affect the future of the city in a negotiated two-state solution. He said he wanted “a great deal” for both sides, and added: “We are not taking a position of any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of contested borders. Those questions are up to the parties involved.”
All the while, it’s a new day in the region with unprecedented communication between Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and the Israelis, making it nearly a certainty that this decision was no surprise to key Arab and Israeli stakeholders in the region.
Evangelicals close to the administration did not support the president’s decision because we favor Jews over Arabs nor for any obscure (and highly contested, I might add) theological reasons like those speculated about, reported upon and sensationalized in recent days.
Evangelicals supported the decision because we believe it was the smart and right thing to do. Ours was a geopolitical opinion, and not a theological one.
Evangelicals are not theocrats. And there’s no Armageddon brewing, so far.
But there are plenty of tyrants and terrorists who’d be happy to start one and not for the cause of Palestinians but on their backs and at the cost of their peace.
Yet, because of reasonable Israelis and Palestinians, I saw with my own eyes a Jerusalem that remains today, as the president said only a few days ago, “a place where Jews pray at the Western Wall, where Christians walk the Stations of the Cross, and where Muslims worship at the Al-Aqsa mosque.”
(The Rev. Johnnie Moore is an informal spokesperson for the evangelicals who advise the Trump administration. He is the founder of The KAIROS Company, a board member of the National Association of Evangelicals and the 2017 recipient of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s “Medal of Valor.” The views expressed in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)