Whose Jerusalem?

A history of Jerusalem since Israel's establishment.

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Annexation or Occupation?

Israel was then faced with an important diplomatic and legal decision:  Would East Jerusalem be annexed to Israel or would it, like the West Bank, be considered occupied territory, subject to Jordanian laws but under Israeli military administration?  In mid-June the Knesset offered its answer, taking a series of measures that ensured the inclusion of East Jerusalem in Israel.

The Law and Administration Ordinance, passed first, permitted the application of Israeli law and administration to any area formerly part of Mandatory Palestine. Next, the Municipalities Ordinance was changed to allow the expansion of the borders of the municipality in those areas where the Israelis have chosen to apply their jurisdiction. Finally, in accordance with the laws above, the government ordered that Israeli sovereignty be extended to Eastern Jerusalem, with the assurance that, by force of law, "the Holy Places shall be protected from desecration and any violation and from anything likely to violate the freedom of access of the members of the different religions to the places sacred to them."

In July of 1967 the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution declaring Israel's actions invalid, and calling on Israeli government to reverse them. Soon after the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution critical of these actions as well, by an incredible vote of 13:0. The Israelis also came under U.N. attack for commissioning archaeological excavations in the Old City of Jerusalem. No major power accepted the extension of Israeli law into East Jerusalem, and after the Yom Kippur war in 1973 many nations in Africa and elsewhere, under pressure from the oil-producing countries, broke off relations.

Palestinian Opposition

From 1967 Israel worked, with limited success, to unite Jerusalem politically and administratively. After dismissing the mayor of East Jerusalem from his post, the Israelis approached him and his colleagues to be part of an enlarged municipal government. The Palestinians refused, concerned that accepting nomination to the council would imply recognition of Israeli sovereignty in East Jerusalem. Similarly, nearly all East Jerusalem Arabs rejected the offer of Israeli citizenship, preferring instead to remain Jordanian citizens.

An amendment to Israeli law allowed the Palestinians in East Jerusalem to vote in municipal elections despite their resident alien status, but few took advantage of this opportunity, again choosing to disenfranchise themselves rather than lend legitimacy to Israeli rule. This decision to boycott the Israeli political system would have a significant impact on the quality of life in East Jerusalem as city planning and development pushed forward without the input of the Arab population.

Inequity Grows

During this period the inequity grew, as the municipal and national governments pursued the interests of Jewish Jerusalem, including moves to ensure that Jerusalem would remain the nation's capital.  On the principle that "[e]very area of the city that is not settled by Jews is in danger of being detached from Israel and transferred to Arab control," city planners worked to build a ring of Jewish population around the northern, northeastern, and southern periphery of the city.

Construction of Jewish homes was encouraged, financially and bureaucratically, while the Palestinian Arab population was granted very few residential construction permits, forcing them to build illegally or else outside the city. This discrimination was also reflected in the delivery of city services. Despite the stated Israeli desire to maintain a united Jerusalem--embodied best by the 1980 Basic Law declaring that "Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel," municipal policy ultimately served to further entrench the city's East/West divisions, a reality that would assume extreme importance as the Palestinians grew in political strength.

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Lili Kalish Gersch was Managing Editor of MyJewishLearning.com.