We celebrate with Israel and Israelis the seventieth anniversary of David ben Gurion’s Declaration of Independence on 14th May 1948.
Independence Day is ‘Yom Ha’atzmaut’ in Hebrew. It gave Israelis the opportunity also to celebrate GDP growth of around 3.5%. That’s much higher than the still-slumping euro zone.
But, as Max Schindler puts in the Jerusalem Post, ‘since the 1970s, Israel has fallen behind the rest of the West when it comes to investment in education, healthcare, infrastructure and transportation per capita – as anecdotally demonstrated by the worst congestion among developed OECD nations.
‘At the same time, Israel faces two primary socioeconomic challenges: declining labor productivity – which makes it harder to raise living standards, and the many ultra-Orthodox and Arab pupils – comprising nearly 40% of all students – who are receiving a third-world education.’
US Embassy opens
Moreover, on Independence Day the United States moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The US embassy is in an upmarket district of southern Jerusalem called Amona. Donald Trump made a promise to move the embassy during the US presidential election.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara had front row seats. Republican billionaire donor Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam were highly visible. Haaretz.com says: The Adelsons’ presence in the front row symbolized the weight of their role in pushing for to the embassy’s opening.
David Friedman, the US Ambassador, hosted the event. Ivanka Trump unvelied the plaque. Not one US Democrat politician attended.
Mr Netanyahu quoted from the Bible:
Zech 8:3 Thus saith the LORD; I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the LORD of hosts the holy mountain.
Except, according to Haaretz, he omitted the final eleven-word phrase. Or maybe they did.
For Arabs, the ‘Catastrophe’
For the Palestinians or Arabs of Gaza, Judea and Samaria, there were no celebrations.
They refer to Israel’s Independence Day as ‘Nakba’, ‘the catastophe’. Naturally, Hamas organised protests which were seen television screens around the world. The terrorist group have threatened to break through Gaza’s border fences.
Of course Israel’s military will contain the protests. But the Daily Telegraph reports today that 58 protestors have died already. Almost 3,000 have been wounded. Sky News was broadcasting from Gaza last night. Its reporter Alex Rossi explained the Israeli snipers were deliberately targeting people’s legs. Viewers saw people injured that way.
We know Hamas are only out to provoke and get a reaction. We know the Israeli Defence Force needs to contain the protests. But such sniper activity seemed to go beyond crowd control. Christians who support Israel expect a higher standard from the Middle East’s only true democracy.
However, Hamas has succeeded in its objective. The world knows there is a conflict and that it remains unresolved.
Post-script: On 17th May, as the Metro reports, (but it’s all over the press) Hamas claimed 50 of the 62 killed were its fighters. Hamas published their names and ranks online, the paper says.
The President’s words
President Donald Trump addressed the audience via satellite. He said the move was ‘a long time coming.’ Israel, like all sovereign nations, had ‘a right to name its own capital’. (Jerusalem Post)
Mr Trump claimed the US would still be observing the status quo in terms of contested territories such as on Temple Mount.
‘The US will always be a great friend of Israel and a partner in the cause of freedom and peace,’ The President said. ‘We extend a hand in friendship to Israel, the Palestinians and to all of their neighbors. May there be peace.’
Boris Johnson said in January that Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital in December 2017 was a “moment of opportunity” for peace. His critics accused him of putting a two-state solution in the Middle East at fresh risk. But the ‘two-state solution’ has always been easier to say than to set out plausibly on paper.
No Muslim claim to Jerusalem
The Foreign Secretary has since moved closer to other European countries. They all say moving the embassy is a threat to peace. They all want Jerusalem to be the capital of a Palestinian state. Muslims hold Jerusalem sacred. Nevertheless, we point out in this article that their claim is founded on a lie. Mohammed was never in Jerusalem. He made up a story about flying there so as not to be caught in an indiscretion.
Moving the Embassy will, in our view, do little for peace. But that is not the point. It is more a statement of intent, or as Jared Kushner put it: ‘the right thing to do.’
Psalm 122:6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.
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