US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Wednesday and announced plans to relocate the US embassy there, upending seven decades of US foreign policy in a move expected to inflame tensions in the region and unsettle the prospects for peace.
Trump also signed a waiver officially delaying the move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem for six months, a National Security Council official said. But the State Department’s security arm is planning for potentially violent protests at US embassies and consulates.
What is the international status of Jerusalem?
The walled Old City of Jerusalem, at just one square kilometer, is home to sites that are among the holiest in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Because of its unique cultural and religious significance, the UN General Assembly set aside Jerusalem to be a corpus separatum, or separated body, under UN trusteeship when it voted in 1947 to divide the British mandate of Palestine into two states, an Arab one and a Jewish one.
That position remained the international consensus even after the partition plan itself was preempted by Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948 and the subsequent invasion by Arab powers. An armistice the following year divided the mandate along what has become known as the Green Line, which cuts through the middle of Jerusalem. Israel established its seat of government in the western half of the city, while, across a no man’s land lined with barbed wire, Jordan took control of the city’s eastern half, including the Old City.
Israel captured East Jerusalem in 1967 and subsequently annexed it, redrawing its municipal borders to include surrounding Arab villages. In 1980, Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, designated the united city as Israel’s capital. By contrast, the West Bank, also captured in 1967, was not annexed; it remains under military occupation and Palestinians have partial self-government there, through the Palestinian Authority (PA). While Israel controls the city, the Oslo Accords, signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1993, stipulated that Jerusalem’s disposition would only be decided on in permanent-status negotiations between the parties. Other major issues under negotiation concern refugees’ right of return, security arrangements, borders, and mutual recognition.
Who lives in Jerusalem?
Jerusalem is home to nearly one million residents. West Jerusalem’s population of some 330,000 is almost entirely Jewish. The eastern half of the city, which comprises the Old City, Palestinian neighborhoods, and refugee camps, along with some newer Jewish settlements, is home to about 320,000 Arabs and 212,000 Jews. Unlike Palestinians who live elsewhere in Israel, most Palestinian East Jerusalemites have permanent residency, but not citizenship, since they do not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the city.
Trump’s announcement is likely to compound a broader crisis of confidence among Palestinians that President Mahmoud Abbas, who has been in office for many years beyond his electoral mandate, can deliver statehood. Fatah and Hamas have called for protest.