Controversy over Jerusalem as Israeli capital | The Daily Star
01:31 PM, December 07, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:40 PM, December 07, 2017

Why this controversy over Jerusalem?


1917 December: British mandate for three decades on Jerusalem begins

1947: Two states resulted by UN Partition Plan brings Jerusalem under governance of “special international regime”

1948: Israel declares independence after end of British mandate

1948: Arab countries reject partition plan, attack the new state and get defeated.

1950: Jerusalem divided by Arab defeat

1967: Israel takes control over most of Jerusalem from Arabs

1980: Bill passed declaring “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel”

1993: Oslo accords create a Palestinian Authority to govern the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

2000: Right-wing politician Ariel Sharon’s visit leads to a second Palestinian uprising claiming about 4,000 lives for over five years.

US President Donald Trump yesterday declared Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in a move that sparked controversy across the world.

CNN journalist Oren Liebermann walks readers through the history involved and what could be at stake by the declaration as reactions from all over the globe including the Middle East and Europe started pouring in.

Why is declaring Jerusalem the capital a big deal?

The final status of Jerusalem has always been one of the most difficult and sensitive questions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Recognising Jerusalem as the capital moves the United States closer to relocating the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which can be seen as cementing Israeli sovereignty over the city, the CNN report says.

How will the embassy move?

Logistically, moving the embassy to Jerusalem could be very simple. There is already a US consulate in Jerusalem, while the embassy remains in Tel Aviv. It could be as simple as switching the names -- making the embassy in Jerusalem and a consulate in Tel Aviv, Oren Liebermann says. The US Ambassador to Israel will move from his residence in a Tel Aviv suburb to Jerusalem.

Also read: Arabs, Europe, UN reject Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli capital

But that will be just about the only simple part. Moving the embassy risks setting off diplomatic crises with Arab states that could include widespread protests outside of US diplomatic offices in those and other countries, Liebermann adds.

Not only that, the ramifications of an embassy move will also be felt far outside of Jerusalem. It will overturn 70 years of international consensus and might signal the end of moves to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

UN partition plan and Jerusalem Day

The United Nations partition plan drawn up in 1947 envisaged Jerusalem as a separate "international city." But the war that followed Israel's declaration of independence one year later left the city divided. When fighting ended in 1949, the armistice border -- often called the Green Line because it was drawn in green ink -- saw Israel in control of the western half, and Jordan in control of the eastern half, which included the famous Old City.

Read more: Jerusalem as Israeli Capital: Trump move stuns world

During the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel occupied East Jerusalem. Since then, all of the city has been under Israel's authority. The city marks "Jerusalem Day" in late-May or early-June. But Palestinians, and many in the international community, continue to see East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

People of Jerusalem

Roughly 850,000 people live in Jerusalem -- 37% are Arab and 61% are Jewish, according to the independent think tank Jerusalem Institute. The Jewish population includes around 200,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews, with the rest split generally between religious Zionist and secular Jews. 96% of the city's Arab population is Muslim; the other 4% is Christian.

Read also: Trump’s view on Jerusalem molded by powerful allies

The vast majority of the Palestinian population lives in East Jerusalem. Although there are some mixed neighborhoods in Jerusalem where both Israelis and Arabs live, most of the neighborhoods are split.

Countries which had embassies in Jerusalem

Before 1980 a number of countries did, including the Netherlands and Costa Rica. But in July of that year, Israel passed a law that declared Jerusalem the united capital of Israel. The United Nations Security Council responded with a resolution condemning Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem and declared it a violation of international law.

Countries moved their embassies out of the city

In 2006, Costa Rica and El Salvador were the last to move their embassies out of Jerusalem, joining the rest of the world in locating their embassies in Tel Aviv.

Consulates in Jerusalem

Some countries do maintain consulates in Jerusalem, including the United States, which has one in the western part of the city. Other countries -- such as Britain and France for instance -- have a consulate in the eastern part of the city, which serve as their countries' main representation in the Palestinian territories.

America’s position regarding its embassy

The US has never had its embassy in Jerusalem. It has always been in Tel Aviv, with the Ambassador's residence in Herzliya Pituach, about 30 minutes north. But it gets complicated. In 1989, Israel began leasing to the US a plot of land in Jerusalem for a new embassy. The 99-year lease cost $1 per year. To this day, the plot has not been developed, and it remains an empty field.

In 1995, the US Congress passed a law requiring America to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Proponents said the US should respect Israel's choice of Jerusalem as its capital, and recognize it as such.

Why hasn't US embassy moved to Jerusalem so far?

Every President since 1995 -- Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama -- has declined to move the embassy, citing national security interests. Every six months, the President has used the presidential waiver to circumvent the embassy move.

Israelis’ response to Trump recognition

The Israeli government has lauded Trump's pledge to follow through with the embassy move. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has been the most outspoken advocate, launching a campaign just days before the US President's inauguration, urging him to make good on his promise.

Palestinians’ reaction to the recognition

Palestinian leaders are adamant that an embassy move to Jerusalem will be a violation of international law, and a huge setback to peace hopes.

President Mahmoud Abbas has turned to other world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Jordan's King Abdullah, to help pressure Trump to change his mind. The Palestine Liberation Organization has suggested it will consider revoking its recognition of Israel, and canceling all agreements between Israelis and Palestinians, should the move take place.

More immediately, there are fears it could set off a wave of unrest -- perhaps even street protests and violence -- in the Palestinian territories and across the Arab world.

Source: CNN

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