An honest broker?

Embassy's move to Jerusalem dims hopes for peace

Jun 4, 2018 by

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Peacemakers believe it is possible to earn the trust of both sides in a conflict. They are careful not to divide the parties into friends and enemies. It’s a narrow path to walk, but Mennonites are trying to do it in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. A resolution passed by Mennonite Church USA delegates in 2017 outlined this position. The sufferings of Jews and Palestinians, the statement said, “have too often been set against each other.” The document seeks to extend a hand of understanding and relationship to all parties. It repents of complicity in anti-Semitism, opposes the occupation of Palestinian land and affirms both Palestinian and Israeli peacemakers.

This is the stance of an “honest broker.” The term has often been applied to the United States in the Israel-Palestine conflict. But now, with the moving of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem on May 14, it is a role the U.S. may no longer be able to fulfill.

Through several presidential administrations, the U.S. has sought to mediate the conflict while also being Israel’s ally. A key to this stance was neutrality on the status of Jerusalem. The U.S. withheld affirmation of either side’s claims to the city. But with the Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — without Israel offering any concession to the Palestinians — hopes for progress toward peace have dimmed.

While the embassy dedication ceremony was taking place, more than 60 Palestinian protesters were killed on the Israel-Gaza border as Israeli soldiers met them with deadly force.

Among those celebrating the embassy’s opening were some American evangelicals, who hailed the move as God’s will. Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital fulfills biblical prophecy, according to the dispensational theology popular in certain evangelical circles. Robert Jeffress and John Hagee, evangelical ministers who spoke at the embassy dedication, adhere to this interpretation of the Bible, which holds that Israel plays a key role in end-times events.

Many other Christians reject the dispensational scenario and the idea that unquestioning support of Israel makes America righteous. The MC USA resolution urges repentance for “embracing or tolerating Christian Zionist theology, which too often has disregarded the well-being of Palestinian people.” Christian Zionism identifies the return of the Jews to their homeland as a sign that the end of the world is near.

The day after the embassy dedication, Palestinians marked the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, the “day of catastrophe” when Israel became a state and drove more than 700,000 Palestinians from their homes. These displaced people and their descendants — and those living under the 51-year military occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza — need the solidarity of U.S. Christians.

The Mennonite Palestine Israel Network has endorsed a letter by Palestinian-American Christians denouncing the Trump administration’s decision on Jerusalem as “the final nail in the coffin” of a peace process. If the U.S. has lost its claim as an honest broker for peace, it is up to American Christians to step into the breach.

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