The Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem issued a statement expressing ‘grave concern’ at news that British Prime Minister Liz Truss has told her Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid that she is reviewing the location of the British Embassy in Israel.
Church leaders say the review of the location of the embassy suggests that the continued military occupation of the occupied territories and the unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem are both acceptable. They say, “We can’t believe this is the message the UK government wants to send to the world.”
The full statement released yesterday is as follows:
We, the Council of Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, have noted with deep concern the recent call by the new British Prime Minister, the Right Honorable Liz Truss, for her government to review the location of the British Embassy in Israel. .
This directive was in response to a request from the conservative Friends of Israel, which sought to move the embassy from its current location in Tel Aviv to a new site in Jerusalem.
As the holy city of the three Abrahamic denominations representing more than half of the world’s population, Jerusalem has long been recognized by the international community, including the United Kingdom, as having a special status (Corpus Separatum), aimed at safeguarding the freedom of religion, the sanctity of Jerusalem as a holy city, and respect for and free access to its holy places (UN Report, “The Status of Jerusalem”, 1997).
As churches, our ecclesiastical jurisdictions cover all political territories of the Holy Land, a region where Christians have lived for 2,000 years, under many different empires and governments. The religious status quo in Jerusalem is essential to preserve the harmony of our holy city and the good relations between religious communities around the world.
Implicit recognition of this status quo is the aforementioned Corpus Separatum which most of the world’s governments have enforced by refraining from placing their embassies in Jerusalem until an agreement on the final status of the holy city has been reached. . The proposed move of the British Embassy to Jerusalem would seriously undermine this key principle of Corpus Separatum and the political negotiations it seeks to advance.
Indeed, the very fact of reviewing the location of the British Embassy not only suggests that the negotiated agreements regarding Jerusalem and the West Bank have already resolved the ongoing disputes between the parties involved – when in fact it is not the case – but also implies that none of these negotiations are necessary: that the continued military occupation of these territories and the unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem are both acceptable. We can’t believe this is the message the UK government wants to send to the world.
Given these considerations, the Council of Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem sees this embassy review as an additional obstacle to advancing the already moribund peace process. Rather than committing precious government resources to such a counterproductive endeavour, we encourage the British Prime Minister and Government to redouble diplomatic efforts to facilitate the resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in order to move from forward with a time-limited and staggered schedule. Peace initiative, all in accordance with international law and relevant UN resolutions.
It is only through such an initiative, we believe, that a just and lasting peace can ever be established in Jerusalem and throughout the Middle East.