By Lisa Cannon Green
Violence surged today with the opening of a new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, signaling American recognition of the ancient city as the capital of Israel.
Arab leaders had warned in advance that moving the embassy from Tel Aviv would endanger peace negotiations.
“This is a hostile act against international law and against the people of Palestine,” said Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, according to The Washington Post.
At least 52 Palestinians died and 2,400 were injured as Israeli soldiers opened fire to keep protesters from entering Israeli territory, The Washington Post reported, in the bloodiest single day since 2014.
Both Israel and Palestine want their capital to be Jerusalem, home to some of the holiest sites in Judaism as well as Islam.
Many other nations have attempted to stay neutral as world leaders work toward negotiating peace in the Middle East. Until now, all 86 countries with embassies in Israel have located them in Tel Aviv, according to The Washington Post.
In the United States, Congress approved moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem in 1995, but each president since then has delayed the move because of concerns for Middle Eastern peace.
President Donald Trump announced in December that the embassy would move. His daughter, Ivanka Trump, was on hand today for the opening of the new embassy as Trump himself addressed the gathering by video.
Trump said the U.S. “extend[s] a hand in friendship to Israel, the Palestinians, and all of their neighbors” and remains “fully committed to facilitating a lasting peace agreement” between them, ABC News reported.
Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, delivered a prayer at the opening ceremony for the new embassy, and John Hagee, the pastor who founded Christians United for Israel, gave the benediction.
In the U.S., evangelicals are among the strongest supporters of the nation of Israel, and some view the move of the embassy from Tel Aviv as prophetically significant.
American evangelicals see a close tie between God and Israel, Lifeway Research found in a study released in 2015.
- 69 percent say the modern nation of Israel was formed as result of biblical prophecy.
- 70 percent say God has a special relationship with the modern nation of Israel.
- 73 percent say events in Israel are part of the prophecies in the Book of Revelation.
However, younger evangelicals are less supportive of Israel than their elders, a separate Lifeway Research survey in late 2017 shows.
Three-quarters (77 percent) of evangelicals 65 and older say they support the existence, security and prosperity of Israel. That drops to 58 percent among younger evangelicals, those 18 to 34.
Four in 10 younger evangelicals (41 percent) say they have no strong views about Israel.
- The Other Holy Land
- Younger Evangelicals Less Supportive of Israel
- Prophecy, Practicality Lead Evangelicals to Support Israel
- Relationship Between Evangelicals and Jews: Close But Complicated
LISA CANNON GREEN (@lisaccgreen) is senior editor of Facts & Trends.