Jerusalem (status of)

In 1947, according to the Partition Plan of Palestine (Resolution 181 of the UN General Assembly), Jerusalem should have been a Corpus Separatum under international control which would belong to none of the two nations – nor Jewish nor Arab – to be created according to the terms of the text. This explains why there are still Consulates General – American, Belgian, Spanish, French, Greek, Italian, Turkish and Swedish – in Jerusalem today, accountable only to their governments without refering to their embassies in Tel-Aviv or Amman.

In 1948, after the first Israeli-Arab war, Israel entered Jerusalem and has since occupied the western part of the city. The Arab population of this part of the city fled.

In June 1967, Israel extended its occupation to the whole of Palestine of the British Mandate (1922-1948), and beyond. It occupied the eastern part of the city of Jerusalem. On 11 June, the Israeli government decided on the annexation of East Jerusalem and extended its territorial limits. On 28 June, the Knesset ratified this decision by extending the application of Israeli law to the annexed area. Some days later, work began opposite the Wailing Wall to guarantee security of access to the site: 5.000 Arab residents were driven out of their homes and joined the refugees in the Shufat camp.

In 1969, construction started in the annexed zone of a belt of urban settlements with the obvious aim to:

  • isolate Jerusalem from the rest of the Palestinian Occupied Territories;
  • make the Arab population of Jerusalem a minority;
  • make any retrocession extremely difficult.

In 1980, on 30 July, the Knesset proclaimed (reunified Jerusalem the eternal capital of the State of Israel). On 20 August, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 478 – backed by the United States – declaring this decision null and void. Currently, except Costa Rica and El Salvador, all States with an embassy in Israel have one in Tel-Aviv. It should be noted that on 6 November 1996, the American Congress, under pressure by the AIPAC – the powerful pro-Israeli lobby in the United States – decided to transfer the American embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem by 31 May 1999 at the latest (the American president could however oppose implementing this decision if he felt it is against the interests of American security).

In 1993, the Declaration of Principles (see Oslo peace process) signed by the PLO and Israel provided, during the final stage of the peace negotiations, for a discussion on the status of Jerusalem. Benjamin Netanyahu, the current Israeli Prime Minister (Likud), considers the status of Jerusalem to be non-negotiable.

In 1995, a « Metropolitan Plan for Jerusalem » was developed by the Israeli government to encompass Greater Jerusalem (the eastern and western parts) and a part of the West Bank (15% of the territory). If implemented, this plan could lead to the increasingly rapid development of Jewish settlements in this area.

The situation today

75% of the Palestinian population of Jerusalem lives below the poverty line and population density is eight times higher than in the Israeli side of the city. Housing is very scarce: the Israeli administration hardly issues any building permits to Jerusalem Palestinians and houses built without permits are demolished (about one thousand Palestinian houses and public buildings have been demolished since 1987 and 4000 others are to be demolished). Furthermore, Israel continues to expropriate Palestinian land in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem Palestinians are considered as foreign residents. They have – rescindable – residency permits issued by the Israeli authorities which allow them to take part in municipal elections. The policy of the Interior Ministry towards them – endorsed on 30 December 1996 by the Israeli Supreme Court – is severe and arbitrary (especially since 1994). In 30 years, an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 Arab residents in Jerusalem have lost their right of residency in the city. These include, for example, Jerusalem Palestinians who lived for over seven years outside the city limits. An estimated 55,000 Jerusalem Palestinians could be affected by this policy in the future. During the first two weeks of January 1997, 233 Palestinian residents in Jerusalem were issued with expulsion orders. Palestinian refugees from camps located within the limits of Greater Jerusalem (the Shufat and Kalandia camps) have absolutely no political rights. Finally, except derogation, Jerusalem is closed since March 1993 to non-resident Palestinians.

This « policy of Judaization » which has been conducted openly by the Israeli government to reduce the Arab presence in Jerusalem is starting to bear fruit. While in 1990, there was still a majority of 150,000 Palestinians against 120,000 Jews in the eastern part of the city, the ratio has been reversed to the benefit of the latter. In 1993, East Jerusalem counted 155.000 Palestinians (non-Jews, as they are called by the Israelis) against 160.000 Israeli Jews. Some 250,000 Israelis live in West Jerusalem.