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Letters & Diaries: Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli capital

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submitted by Toine Van Teeffelen on 07.12.2017

A legitimization of existing Israel’s policy towards Jerusalem

The main arguments against Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel now used in the media are practical, tactical ones. Trump runs like a bull into the diplomatic china shop. He prejudges the outcome of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, and provokes violence in the Middle East and beyond.

All true. But we should not allow ourselves to forget the core issue. The solemn recognition of Jerusalem by the US is a reward for and legitimisation of the existing, decades-old Israeli policy of keeping Jerusalem as the ‘eternal, unified’ capital of Israel.

What is precisely meant by ‘Jerusalem’? From 1948 until the June war in 1967, Jerusalem was divided in an Israeli western part and an Arab eastern part, then under the control of Jordan. During the 1967 war Israel conquered the eastern part, including the holy places in the old city.

It is not so known that immediately after 1967 Israel greatly expanded the municipal boundaries of the eastern part of Jerusalem. While during Jordanian times the land surface of the former (East-)Jerusalem municipality was a mere 6.4 square kilometer, that part of the city was expanded after 1967 to cover 70 square kilometer - more than 10 times as much.

Lands of 28 Palestinian villages on the West Bank were taken over. In contravention of international law, the expanded East-Jerusalem was practically (after 1967) and formally (in 1980) annexed to Israel. Israel’s judicial system was imported, and new Jewish neighborhoods – according to international law illegal settlements – established in the expanded zones of Jerusalem, with the purpose of altering the demographic ‘balance’ between Jews and Palestinians in the city to the advantage of the Jewish population.

Not only has Israel worked on keeping and illegally expanding Jerusalem as capital of Israel. It also fervently tries to prevent on the ground that East-Jerusalem will remain the center of Palestinian life and become the capital of a future Palestine. This, too, is legitimized by Trump’s statement.

Palestinians in East-Jerusalem are second or third-class citizens, according to Israeli human rights organizations and journalists and EU and UN reports. They documented that where Palestinians in Jerusalem are 40% of the city’s population, only 10% of the municipal budget goes to Palestinian neighborhoods. There is severe discrimination of Palestinians in the municipal housing policies and urban development plans.

The so-called separation wall divides Palestinian neighborhoods from each other and makes normal life in the surroundings almost impossible. There is a shortage of schools as well as educational means and equipment in Arab East-Jerusalem. Palestinians there face great difficulties to keep their residential status and often leave out of frustration and despair.

At the same time, Palestinians in the occupied West Bank face huge obstacles in traveling to Jerusalem and Israel and are dependent on an inhuman, complex and arbitrary permit system. Gradually East-Jerusalem becomes separated from its hinterland in the West Bank. East-Jerusalem as a center of the West Bank and Palestine barely anymore exists.

Trump’s statement contains a brief section saying that the Israeli borders of Jerusalem should be determined in future negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. He indicated that both parties would have to agree with such borders. This gives Israel, in a much more powerful position, a free hand to do and accept what it wants, outside the framework of international law.

Israel actively prevents a future of East-Jerusalem as Palestinian capital. Promoting Jerusalem as capital of Israel and preventing Jerusalem to become the capital of Palestine are two sides of the same coin. The massive US financial flow and now symbolic support to Israel make this sad transformation of Jerusalem possible.

Toine van Teeffelen

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