East Jerusalem

A plan for a controversial city?

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Jerusalem is much more than the capital of the modern State of Israel. With religious sites coveted by Jews, Christians, and Muslims, Jerusalem is holy to a majority of the world's population.

From its independence in 1948 until the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel only had sovereignty over the western portion of Jerusalem as we know it today. The eastern part of the city, which included the Western Wall, was under Jordanian control. In June 1967, during the Six-Day War, Israel captured the eastern side of the city and quickly annexed it a few weeks later, unlike other West Bank territories seized in the brief conflagration. Since then, Israel has been struggling to establish Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state while dealing with conflicting claims on her real estate. 

silwan jerusalem

Silwan

Every Israeli government since 1967 has pursued the goal of building areas of Jewish population surrounding the Old City to establish Jewish control in strategic areas and prevent any future division of Jerusalem. Meanwhile, beginning in the late 1980s, Palestinian leaders including Faysal al Husseini and Yasser Arafat began making declarations about Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state.

Contentious Construction

Both the U.N. and the current U.S. State Department object to Israel building Jewish neighborhoods in areas that were incorporated into the city following the Six-Day War, since they are beyond the Green Line (the 1949 armistice line) and conflict with their interpretation of U.N. Resolution 242.This resolution, from November 1967, calls for "Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict."

Current U.S. policy  maintains that Jewish construction in east Jerusalem is not conducive to bringing the other side to the negotiating table. According to this view, Jerusalem is a permanent status issue to be resolved through direct negotiations. Israeli actions taken to expand existing neighborhoods or add new ones have come under criticism from President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Compared to the Bush and Clinton administrations, President Obama's condemnation of Israel's actions in Jerusalem has intensified, raising tensions between the two allies. In 2009, Israel agreed to a building freeze in the West Bank, but the U.S. State Department insisted that this applied also to Jerusalem neighborhoods beyond the Green Line. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made it clear that Israel's right to continue building in its capital was not a matter for negotiation. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas refuses to hold direct talks as long as Israel does not include east Jerusalem in the building freeze.

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Judy Lash Balint

Judy Lash Balint is a Jerusalem based writer and author of Jerusalem Diaries: What's Really Happening in Israel. She blogs at jerusalemdiaries.blogspot.com