Anglican leaders join ecumenical voices opposing move of British Embassy to Jerusalem – Episcopal News Service
[Episcopal News Service] The British Prime Minister’s interest in moving the UK Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has drawn fierce criticism from religious leaders around the world, echoing the 2017 outcry over the decision of the US President Donald Trump to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem.
Premier Liz Truss reportedly discussed potential relocation from the British Embassy with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting last month. UK authorities have confirmed that “a review of the current location” will be carried out.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby issued a statement to the British newspaper Jewish News expressing concern “over the potential impact of moving the British Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem before a negotiated settlement between Palestinians and Israelis is reached. has been concluded”. Welby’s office said he is “in contact with the Christian leaders of the Holy Land and continues to pray for the peace of Jerusalem”.
Leaders of 13 Christian denominations in Jerusalem, including Anglican Archbishop Hosam Naoum, published a letter on October 10 raising their objections to the latest developments: “The very fact of reviewing the location of the British Embassy not only suggests that the negotiated agreements concerning Jerusalem and the West Bank have already resolved the ongoing disputes between the parties concerned – when in fact it does not is not the case – but also implies that no such negotiations are necessary: that the continued military occupation of these territories and the unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem are both acceptable.
The Episcopal Church has long sided with those who oppose the establishment of embassies in Jerusalem, except in the context of peace negotiations. The Reverend Paul Feheley, head of the church’s Middle East partnership, told Episcopal News Service that he sent a letter to Naoum to “express our support for the position that the patriarchs and leaders of the churches in Jerusalem had taken”.
For decades, the United Nations has insisted on Jerusalem’s unique status as an “international city” despite Israel declares it national capital in 1980. The city is considered a sacred place for Jews, Muslims and Christians. While most of the Israeli government is based in West Jerusalem, East Jerusalem is seen by much of the world as occupied territory, which Palestinians hope will one day become the capital of a Palestinian state.
Because of this history, more than 80 countries have their embassies in Tel Aviv. Only four have embassies in Jerusalem: Honduras, Guatemala, Kosovo and the United States.
In a 1985 resolutionGeneral Convention, responding to an ongoing debate on the issue in Washington, D.C., expressed “its opposition to moving the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, except in the context of broad problem-solving of the Middle East, with the status of Jerusalem having been determined by negotiation and not by the unilateral action of one community, religion, race or nation. »
The Reverend Charles Robertson, the canon of presiding bishop for ministry beyond the Episcopal Church, noted in a statement to ENS that the General Convention also had adopted a resolution earlier, in 1979, which recognized “the uniqueness of the city of Jerusalem” and advocated “a solution that would guarantee free and safe access to the Holy City for people of all faiths”.
“More than four decades later, we take seriously the concerns of the patriarchs and church leaders of Jerusalem, as outlined in their final letter, and offer both our prayers and our support,” said Robertson.
In December 2017, Trump announced he was reversing decades of White House policy to fulfill an election promise to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which enjoyed strong support among American evangelicals and pro-Israel Jews.
At the time, Trump cited a law passed by Congress in 1995 calling for the relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem. Every president since Bill Clinton had waived that requirement six months at a time, citing security concerns. Trump first followed suit, then reversed course. The relocation to Jerusalem was completed in May 2018.
The US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was met with a chorus of Christian voices warning against the move. Leaders of Christian churches in Jerusalem said it would “produce an increase in hatred, strife, violence and suffering in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, moving us further away from the goal of unity and deeper towards destructive division”.
The Government Relations Office of the Episcopal Church has also released a statement at the timesaying Trump’s decision “could have profound ramifications for the peace process and the future of a two-state solution, and could negatively impact the entire region and key U.S. allies.”
The UK’s review of the location of its embassy comes amid heightened violence in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. A BBC October 1 report counted at least 100 Palestinians killed this year in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, mostly by Israeli security forces, making 2022 the deadliest year for Palestinians since 2015.
– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at [email protected].