Evangelical leaders in the U.S. are applauding the history-making events occurring today in Jerusalem as the American Embassy officially opens there, as Israel's prime minister said Jerusalem will always be the "eternal, undivided" capital of Israel.
Addressing the opening ceremony of the new American Embassy in Jerusalem, Benjamin Netanyahu called it a "glorious" day. Netanyahu thanked President Donald Trump for showing the "courage" to keep a key campaign promise and says relations with the U.S. have never been stronger. (Click on image above for larger version)
Trump called the move "simply a recognition of reality" that Israel – like every other sovereign nation – has the right to choose its own capital. "Yet for 70 years we neglected to extend this basic courtesy to Israel that we extend to other countries," the president has stated. "Today, we finally acknowledge the obvious: that Jerusalem is Israel's capital."
Netanyahu says Mideast peace must be founded on what he says is the "truth" recognized by the U.S. "The truth is that Jerusalem has been and always will be the capital of the Jewish people, the capital of the Jewish state," he said.
"America is always stronger when she stands with her allies – a principle made all the more true when that nation is Israel, the Middle East's only true democracy and a beacon of freedom, prosperity, faith and the rule of law throughout the region and the world. For decades, president after president has promised to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, and so, I want to commend this administration for finally and officially being the one to do it, following through on what is nothing less than a truly historic and courageous decision.
"We pray first for peace today and in the weeks ahead. We also pray that today would ultimately mark a new era of peace and diplomatic possibility in the region. And finally, we celebrate with the Jewish people as America recognizes, once and for all, Jerusalem's rightful seat as Israel's eternal capital city."
Dr. Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary (Matthews, NC), points out that Prime Minister Netanyahu's connection to the nation of Israel is "a very personal one":
"In speaking to Israelis, Prime Minister Netanyahu explained how his grandfather was beaten unconscious by an anti-Semitic mob in a train station in the heart of Europe at the end of the 19th century, pledging that if he survived the night, he would bring his family to the land of Israel and help build a new future for the Jewish people.
"Mr. Netanyahu went on to say, 'I am standing here today as the Prime Minister of Israel because my grandfather kept his promise.' God keeps His promises too, and He promised the land of Israel to the Jews forever. Their return is part of biblical prophecy. God gave that land to them by covenant."
Dr. Alex McFarland is a Christian apologist and educator at North Greenville University (Greenville, SC). He argues for Trump's place in history because of the embassy move.
"President Trump has made good on his many promises and accomplished several positive foreign policy goals, including those related to Israel, Iran and North Korea, and this will undoubtedly make him one of America's greatest presidents since Ronald Reagan. The liberal media and his detractors might balk at this, but few rational people will deny that President Trump has already made history during his time in office. His actions in Israel alone are worthy of history books, especially after the frosty attitude toward Israel by this nation's past administration."
Longtime Israel supporter Pastor John Hagee, in an interview with Fox News ahead of Trump's official announcement, offered this assessment of Trump's place in history:
"I can assure you that 60 million evangelicals are watching this promise closely because if President Trump moves the embassy into Jerusalem, he will historically step into immortality. He will be remembered for thousands of years for his act of courage to treat Israel like we already treat other nations.
"If he does not, he will be remembered as just another president who made a promise he failed to keep, which would generate massive disappointment in that strong evangelical base that went to vote for him against Hillary Clinton."
Jan Markell, founder and director of Olive Tree Ministries, points out that in Israel, President Trump is being compared to King Cyrus:
"They see that he's a man who tries to keep his word. And then part two of that is that he is trying to get rid of this Iranian nuclear agreement, which I think is probably going to fizzle and fade out here. Certainly America's participation [in the Iran deal] is history."
King Cyrus is an important figure in Jewish history. It was under his rule that Jews were first allowed to return to Israel – after 70 years of captivity.
Not everyone is happy about it
The Associated Press reports the following: The world’s largest body of Muslim-majority nations says it “strongly rejects and condemns” the White House’s “deplorable action” to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation said it considers the U.S. move an “illegal decision” and “an attack on the historical, legal, natural and national rights of the Palestinian people.” The organization said the move Monday also represents “an affront to international peace and security.”
The OIC said the U.S. administration has “expressed utter disdain and disrespect to Palestinian legitimate rights and international law” and shown disregard toward the sentiments of Muslims, who value Jerusalem as home to one of Islam’s holiest sites, the al-Aqsa mosque complex.
The statement comes amid deadly riots and mass protests near the Gaza border. Gaza’s Health Ministry says dozens of Palestinians (at least 52) have died in the clashes, making it the deadliest day in Gaza since a 2014 war with Israel.
A top Turkish official has condemned Israel for the deadly clashes along the Israeli-Gaza border, while the foreign ministry blasted the U.S. decision to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem.
The Associated Press contributed to this story. Jan Markell's comments were added after story was originally posted.
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