(CNS News) — The Christian Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem rebuked Britain’s decision to consider moving the UK Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, explaining that to do so is a violation of the Holy City’s “special status” and “sacred character.”
Further, such a move will only fuel tensions between Israelis and Palestinians and further undercut the peace process, said the Christian leaders.
“[T]the very act of reviewing the placement of the British Embassy not only suggests that negotiated agreements regarding Jerusalem and the West Bank have already resolved the ongoing disputes between the involved parties—when in fact they have not—but also implies that no such negotiations are needed: that the continuing military occupation of those territories and the unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem are both acceptable,” said the leaders in an Oct. 10 statement.
“We cannot believe that this is the message that the British government wishes to send to the world,” they added.
The ecclesiastical jurisdictions of the Council of the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem covers all of the political territories of the Holy Land,” reads the statement, “a region where Christians have lived for 2,000 years, under many different empires and governments.”
The statement was issued in response to reports that the new Prime Minister of Britain, Liz Truss, has called on her government to review the placement of the British Embassy, which currently is in Tel Aviv, west of Jerusalem on the Mediterranean Sea.
Truss, a conservative, has described herself as a “huge Zionist and a huge supporter of Israel.”
As the Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem explain, Jerusalem enjoys a “special status” because it is the home for the holy of the three Abrahamic faiths: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
“Jerusalem has long been recognized by the International Community, including the United Kingdom, as having a special status (Corpus Separatum), one aimed at safeguarding the freedom of religion, the sacred character of Jerusalem as a Holy City, and the respect for, and freedom of access to, its holy places (UN Report, “The Status of Jerusalem,” 1997), said the Christian leaders.
Implicit in this special status is that most of the world’s governments have refrained “from locating their embassies in Jerusalem until a final status agreement on the Holy City has been reached,” reads the statement. “The contemplated movement of the British Embassy to Jerusalem would severely undermine this key principle of Corpus Separatum and the political negotiations that it seeks to advance.”
“In view of these considerations, the Council of the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem regards this Embassy Review as a further impediment to advancing the already moribund Peace Process,” they said. “Rather than commit valuable governmental resources to such a counterproductive endeavor, we encourage the British Prime Minister and government to instead redouble their diplomatic efforts towards facilitating the restart of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in order to move forward with a time-delimited and phased Peace Initiative, all in accordance with International Law and relevant UN resolutions.”
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, wrote on Twitter: “I have written to the Prime Minister to express profound concern over her call for a review of the location of the British Embassy to the State of Israel, with the suggestion that it might be moved away from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”
“Such a relocation of the UK Embassy would be seriously damaging to any possibility of lasting peace in the region and to the international reputation of the United Kingdom,” he added.
Donald McIntyre, author of Gaza, A Country Preparing for Dawn, wrote in The Guardian that moving the British Embassy to Jerusalem would kill the idea of a division of Jerusalem into two capitals, Israeli and Palestinian, side by side. Beyond that, it would directly help to empower the Israeli right in their relentless extension of illegal settlements not only in East Jerusalem but across the West Bank, corralling and dispossessing Palestinians in the process.”
In a Sept. 30 letter to members of Britain’s Parliament, the Conservative Friends of Israel said, “At its core, a move to relocate the British Embassy to Jerusalem would be a bureaucratic one that recognises the reality on the ground. It would not preclude the Palestinians from establishing their capital in East Jerusalem in the future, nor would it alter the UK’s longstanding view that the future status of the city is an issue that must be negotiated between the Israelis and Palestinians in bilateral negotiations.
“Under any realistic two state solution, West Jerusalem would remain under Israeli rule – this has been long-accepted in peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians over decades.”
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