Palestine: Part 20 – Jerusalem
Palestine: Part 19 – Syria in Lebanon
From 1517 until the First World War, Jerusalem was part of the Ottoman Empire. Since the 1860s, Jews have formed the largest religious group in the city and since around 1887 Jews have been in the majority.
In the 19th century, European powers vied for influence in the city, usually on the basis of extending protection over Christian churches and Holy Places. A number of these countries also established consulates in Jerusalem. In 1917 and following the First World War, Great Britain was in control of Jerusalem; from 1923 as part of the Mandate of Palestine.
In the Partition of Palestine, Jerusalem was established as a corpus separatum, or a “separated body” with a special legal and political status, administered by the United Nations. While many states accepted the newly formed Israeli state in 1948, none recognized its sovereignty over Jerusalem generally citing the UN resolutions which called for an international status for the city.
The 1949 Armistice Agreements left Jordan in control of the eastern parts of the city, while the western sector was held by Israel. Each side recognised the other’s de facto control of their respective sectors. The Armistice Agreement, however, was considered internationally as having no legal effect on the continued validity of the provisions of the partition resolution for the internationalization of Jerusalem. Soon after Israel declared that Jerusalem was an inseparable part of the State of Israel and its eternal capital. In 1950, Jordan annexed eastern Jerusalem. Though the United Kingdom and Pakistan recognized Jordanian rule over eastern Jerusalem, no other foreign country recognized either Jordanian or Israeli rule over the respective areas of the city under their control.
Following the 1967 war, Israel declared that Israeli law would be applied to East Jerusalem and enlarged its eastern boundaries, approximately doubling its size. The action was deemed unlawful by other states who did not recognize it. It was condemned by the UN Security Council and General Assembly who described it as an annexation in violation of the rights of the Palestinian population. Israel would later pass a law declaring that “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel”. The law was declared null and void by the Security council in Resolution 478 and in numerous resolutions by the UN General assembly.
There are differing legal and diplomatic positions on Jerusalem held within the international community. No country in the world except for Israel has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Many do not recognize it as a city that is properly Israel’s. Many UN member states formally adhere to the United Nations proposal that Jerusalem should have an international (autonomous or semi-autonomous city-state that is separate from the direct supervision of any single nation-state) status.
The chief dispute revolves around Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem, while broader agreement exists regarding the Israeli presence in West Jerusalem. By law, the majority of UN member states and most international organizations do not recognize Israel’s ownership of East Jerusalem which occurred after the 1967 Six-Day War, nor its later Jerusalem Law proclamation, which declared a “complete and united” Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. As a result, foreign embassies are generally located in Tel Aviv and its suburbs.
Jerusalem remains a contentious issue in final status peace talks between Israel and Palestine, both of which claim Jerusalem as their capital. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated that “Jerusalem belongs to the Jewish people and will remain under Israeli sovereignty for eternity.” Other organizations and communities advocate that Jerusalem should be an international city.
Palestine: Part 21 – Right of Return