Recently, US President Donald Trump’s pledge to declare Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has caused controversy across the world. He also announced his plans to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. Let’s analyse the implications of US Embassy in Jerusalem.
What is the capital of Israel?
Israel claims that Jerusalem is its capital, but this is not internationally recognised. This is because the ancient city is also the proclaimed capital of the State of Palestine. And more than that, Jerusalem is one of the main contentions in Isreal-Palestine conflicts.
So the answer to the question ‘what is the capital of Israel’ depends on who you ask. For the Israeli government, it’s simple: Jerusalem. But not all countries recognize this.
Historical perspective of Jerusalem
Jerusalem is a holy city for the 3 Abrahamic religions viz, Judaism, Christianity and Islam representing different periods of its history.
- By 1917, it fell to the British and they had to protect the region under League of Nations mandate.
UN had chalked up a partition plan for the region by 1947. It had designated Jerusalem as a special international zone.
- But soon wars were to follow. In the Arab-Israeli war of 1948, Israel occupied the western part and Jordan the eastern part of Jerusalem. The East was to be later annexed by Israel in the Six Day War of 1967.
- Except for three nations (US, Czech Republic and the island nation of Vanuatu), this annexation was not accepted by the international community and it still considers East Jerusalem as a part of Palestine territory. Thus, the demand for the boundary as existing prior to 1967 war is raised by nations for a Two-Nation Theory Agreement.
In deference to this, no country maintains its diplomatic missions in Jerusalem. Foreign embassies in Israel are located in Tel Aviv. The embassy of India for Israel is at Tel Aviv and has a Representative Office for Palestine at Ramallah in West Bank.
Israeli “basic law” however cites whole of Jerusalem as its capital. This act has been censured by the UN Security Council (UNSC) in “strongest terms” in 1980.
Israel government has a greater control over all parts of Jerusalem than the Palestinian government except for its East. This is more than evident with the settlement of Israelites to occupied parts of East Jerusalem and even West Bank. This is alleged to be a ploy by Israel to supplement it claims on these lands.
On the other hand, Palestine is territorially and administratively divided.
West Bank (called so as it happens to be the western bank of River Jordan) is led by the Fatah-controlled Palestinian National Authority (PNA) with its president Mahmoud Abbas.
The Gaza strip is controlled by Hamas, which many countries consider as a militant organisation.
Also read: Gadgil Report and Kasturirangan Report on Western Ghats
Remember, The Palestinian National Authority was the arrangement for Palestine administration of its territories after an agreement in 1994 and consequence of Oslo Accords of 1993. Elections in 2006 led to Hamas winning the Gaza strip and Fatah reduced to West Bank giving rise to an administrative division. The news of shellings during conflict you hear are alleged to be from this Gaza strip and against the actions of illegal settlement and alleged atrocities by Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) against Palestinian people.
The contentious territorial claims on Jerusalem have made it a no man’s land for embassies. Not willing to add to the conflict, nations choose not to have a permanent base of any form here until the Palestine problem is settled. In the two-state solution, i.e., the coexistence of Israel and Palestine as independent countries, Palestine considers East Jerusalem as their future capital. Importantly, in December 2016, UN had stated that Palestine territories in Jerusalem were under “hostile occupation”, i.e., by Israel.