“I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel”
U.S. President Donald Trump
Israel and Palestine have been fighting for decades. The conflict, that originated from the Jewish migration, has worsened over time. Though Israel has come to reconciliation with Egypt and Jordan, their conflict with Palestine still remains a bone of contention for the whole world.
There are many key issues where Israelis and Palestinians disagree. These include border recognition issues, Palestinian freedom of movement, the control of Jerusalem and Israeli settlements. The damages have worsened over time, and the increasing propensity of people resorting to violence makes us wonder: When will there be peace? Will there be peace at all?
Recently, the issue came back to prominence when the US president Donald Trump declared Jerusalem to be the official capital of Israel. This was opposite to the stand taken by various previous American Presidents. Trump, as opposed to many other countries, went on to declare a possibility of a ‘one-state solution’ instead of a two-state one. This raised serious concerns in the UN and many nations opposed the United States’ stance over Jerusalem.
Through this text, we will try to go through the bloody history of the two nations and discuss why Jerusalem becomes an issue of so much importance in the modern context. We will also see the role of the United States in the conflict over the years.
Israel: It is the world’s only Jewish state, located near the Mediterranean sea.
Palestine: Is the Arab population belonging to the place that is controlled by Israel these days. They have been wanting to establish their own land on the whole (or part) of the land controlled by Israel.
Israel vs Palestine: A Brief Recap
The current conflict dates back to mid 20th century. Those days, there was a nationalist movement that developed in the Jews as well as in the Arabs. The Jews were fleeing from the hostile treatment in European Countries and wanted to establish their own homeland where the Arabs lived.
The choice of this specific piece land came from a fundamental national ideology called Zionism. The Zionists firmly believed that the Jews had a right to claim their ancestral homeland, just as the Indians have to live in India. The Jews connected themselves to an ancient empire of David and Solomon (950 BC), and believed that they had always craved to ‘return to Zion (Zion: The city of David)’.
This belief was turned into an international movement by a journalist named Theodor Herzl. Herzel had faced the European autocracies on Jews and believed that survival of Jews will not be possible except in their homeland, which later became present-day Israel.
Anyways, when Israelis decided to come and take back this land, the Arabs resisted. This lead to two wars in 1948 and 1967.
1948 War and Formation of Israel
In 1947, the UN voted to split the land and gave both the Arabs and the Jews some portion of it. The area of Jerusalem and Bethlehem were to become international zones. However, the Arabs (Palestinians) didn’t agree and called that plan an international betrayal. In 1948, the Arab states of Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria (and Palestine) declared a war on Israel.
Israel teamed up with Czechoslovakia and defeated all, forcing 700,000 Palestinians to be refugees. The Palestinians called this Nakba- the Arabic for catastrophe. By the end of 1949, Israel possessed 77% of the region and had split Palestine into 3 via the “Green Line”. Jordan took East Jerusalem and Egypt took control of the Gaza Strip.
The 1967 war
Though there was an armistice agreement between the two nations, some conflicts continued. Israeli forces recaptured the Gaza Strip with the help of the British. During this war, the Egyptian, the Jordan, and the Syrian armies were defeated again, and Israel recaptured the West Bank, Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula.
Since then, the wars and conflicts have continued, Palestine demanding their ownership and Israelis denying it. Most of the countries have considered a two-state solution as a right one.
What about Jerusalem
Jerusalem is a city between West Bank and the borders of Israel. It is a holy city for both the contesting parties. Thus, both the Palestinians and Israelis wish to make Jerusalem their capital.
Between 1947 and 1967, Israel and Jordan co-controlled the region. The parts of regional importance to Jews, in which Jordan had a control were inaccessible to the Jews. During the 1967 war, Israel took back the control of Jerusalem.
Since that time, to the latest past (before Donald Trump), despite Israel insisting so, the US has never believed Jerusalem to be an undivided capital of Israel.
However, the recent happenings changed everything…
Current Situation: Control of Jerusalem
Around fifteen days back, U.S. President Donald Trump, in a speech at the White House, surprised the world with the proclamation of recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. He mentioned that this step was taken to bring peace to the long-standing issue in the Israel and Palestine region. But the true fact is, the people in Palestine grew increasingly dissatisfied with Trump’s decision over Jerusalem.
Forget about peace, now the protesters in Palestine have called for an ‘Intifada’- an uprising – against the Israeli. With Trump’s decision, not just in Palestine, the US embassies in some other countries that are opposing this statement, have been issued security alerts urging Americans to stay safe.
However, Trump didn’t state “to what extent, Jerusalem had to be considered as Israel capital.” But said that only the two parties involved could take a final call on boundaries of the region. (More than 8.5 lakh Palestinian lived in Jerusalem in 2015.)
In the same meeting, Trump has ordered state department officials to make arrangements to move the US embassy in Israel from its current capital city, Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
In 1995, the US Congress has passed Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 for the purpose of relocating US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This law also provided the option of non-implementation of this law which required US presidential waiver every six months. Over the years, the law remained unimplemented by Presidents Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Barack Obama who were exercising this option.
Surprisingly this time even Trump, after recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, signed this waiver, describing as this process of relocating will take more than 3 years. However, Jerusalem is the home of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, as well as the Israeli supreme court.
Though Trump said all his moves are a new approach, his usual aligning countries like UK, Germany, France have not supported him in this decision. As the members of United Nations Security Council (15 members, 5-Permanent, and 10-Temporary), around 8 countries have requested UNSC to discuss this move.
In a vote at the United Nations, 128 countries have voted in favor of the resolution which is against US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Only 9 countries, including US and Israel, voted against the resolution. And 35 countries abstained. Even India voted in favor of the resolution against the US.
(Exactly a year back, UNSC adopted a resolution to restrict Israel settlements in Palestinian territories and called for a two-state solution to resolve the conflict. This resolution was passed with 14-0 votes by members, only US abstained. But, the Israel government has announced that it will not comply with the resolution terms.)
Though they didn’t get a majority, US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley invited the UN representatives of all the nations who did not support the resolution to a reception in the US. While Israel formally announced to exit from the UNESCO, post the UN vote.
With many countries opposing the US in this step, let us wait and see how the relationship turns between these countries in the future.
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