by Amb. Alan Baker
Jerusalem has been the official capital of the State of Israel and the center of its government since 1950.
Institute for Contemporary Affairs
Founded jointly with the Wechsler Family Foundation
- Jerusalem has been the official capital of the State of Israel and the center of its government since 1950. Jerusalem is the seat of Israel’s President, Knesset, and Supreme Court, and the site of most government ministries and social and cultural institutions. Jerusalem is the ancient spiritual center of Judaism and is also considered a holy city by the members of other religious faiths. Israel protects the holy sites of all faiths.
- In 1967, Jordan rejected warnings from Israel and opened an aggressive war against Israel by bombarding Jerusalem. In response and in self-defense, Israel captured east Jerusalem, then controlled by Jordan.
- As such, Israel’s status in eastern Jerusalem is entirely legitimate and lawful and accepted by the international community under the international law of armed conflict.
- The 1967 unification of Jerusalem by Israel through the extension of its law, jurisdiction, and administration to eastern Jerusalem, while not accepted by the international community, did not alter the legality of Israel’s presence and status in, and governance of, the city.
- The United States has consistently stated that the issue of Jerusalem must be solved by negotiation as part of a just, durable and comprehensive peace settlement.1
- Numerous politically-generated resolutions and declarations by the UN, UNESCO, and others, attempting to revise and distort the long history of Jerusalem and to deny basic religious, legal and historic rights of the Jewish People and the State of Israel in Jerusalem, have no legal standing and are not binding. They represent nothing more than the political viewpoints of those states that voted to adopt them.
- The PLO and Israel agreed in the Oslo Accords that “the issue of Jerusalem” is a permanent status negotiating issue that can only be settled by direct negotiation between them with a view to settling their respective claims. The U.S. President, as well as the presidents of the Russian Federation and Egypt, the King of Jordan, and the official representatives of the EU are among the signatories as witnesses to the Oslo Accords.
- Neither UN/UNESCO resolutions, nor declarations by governments, leaders, and organizations can impose a solution to the issue of Jerusalem, nor can they dictate or prejudge the outcome of such negotiations.
- Acknowledging the facts that Jerusalem is the capital city of Israel and acknowledging that locating the American embassy in Jerusalem is the sovereign prerogative of the United States would in no way prejudice or influence the peace negotiation process. They would be an acknowledgment of a long-standing factual situation and rectification of a historic injustice.
- Statements by the King of Jordan, the Palestinian leadership, and Arab leaders that recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital or locating the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem will endanger the peace process and bring a wave of violence, are nothing but empty threats and unfortunate attempts to threaten a sovereign government and incite. Surrendering to such threats of violence and terrorism would be a dangerous precedent and a sign of weakness.
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1 UN statements by Ambassadors Goldberg (1967) and Yost (1969), statement by Secretary of State Rogers (1969) and letter by President Carter (1978).Amb. Alan Baker is Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center and the head of the Global Law Forum. He participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians, as well as agreements and peace treaties with Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon. He served as legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as Israel’s ambassador to Canada.
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