Why declaring Jerusalem capital of Israel is controversial

Jerusalem US Embassy Package Ian Lee

The announcement would transfer Trump one step nearer to fulfilling his marketing campaign pledge to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — a transfer lengthy sought by Israel, however put aside by earlier US Presidents as a result of regional issues and Jerusalem’s contested standing between Israelis and Palestinians. Either side declare the holy metropolis as their capital.

CNN’s Oren Liebermann, who is based mostly in Jerusalem, walks us by what’s at stake.

Why is declaring Jerusalem the capital such an enormous deal?

The ultimate standing of Jerusalem has all the time been one of essentially the most troublesome and delicate questions within the Israeli-Palestinian battle. If the US declares Jerusalem because the capital of Israel, it will be seen as prejudging that query, deciding a difficulty that was imagined to be left to negotiations and breaking with the worldwide consensus on the holy metropolis.

Recognizing Jerusalem because the capital additionally strikes the US one main step nearer to relocating the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which might be seen as cementing Israeli sovereignty over the town.

How would the embassy transfer work?

Logistically, shifting the embassy to Jerusalem may very well be quite simple. There is already a US consulate in Jerusalem, whereas the embassy stays in Tel Aviv. It may very well be so simple as switching the names — making the embassy in Jerusalem and a consulate in Tel Aviv. The US Ambassador to Israel would transfer from his residence in a Tel Aviv suburb to Jerusalem.

However that will be nearly the one easy half. Shifting the embassy dangers setting off diplomatic crises with Arab states that might embrace widespread protests outdoors of US diplomatic workplaces in these and different international locations.

The ramifications of an embassy transfer can be felt far outdoors of Jerusalem. It could overturn 70 years of worldwide consensus, and, many argue, would successfully sign the tip of strikes to attain peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Give me some historical past …

The United Nations partition plan drawn up in 1947 envisaged Jerusalem as a separate “worldwide metropolis.” However the conflict that adopted Israel’s declaration of independence one yr later left the town divided. When combating led to 1949, the armistice border — usually referred to as the Inexperienced Line as a result of it was drawn in inexperienced ink — noticed Israel in management of the western half, and Jordan in management of the jap half, which included the well-known Outdated Metropolis.

When did that change?

Through the 1967 Six-Day Warfare, Israel occupied East Jerusalem. Since then, all of the town has been beneath Israel’s authority. The town marks “Jerusalem Day” in late-Might or early-June. However Palestinians, and lots of within the worldwide group, proceed to see East Jerusalem because the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Who lives in Jerusalem?

Roughly 850,000 folks reside in Jerusalem — 37% are Arab and 61% are Jewish, in line with the unbiased assume tank Jerusalem Institute. The Jewish inhabitants contains round 200,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews, with the remaining cut up usually between non secular Zionist and secular Jews. One other 1% are Arab Christians.

The overwhelming majority of the Palestinian inhabitants lives in East Jerusalem. Though there are some blended neighborhoods in Jerusalem the place each Israelis and Arabs reside, most of the neighborhoods are cut up.

Have any international locations ever had their embassy in Jerusalem?

Sure. Earlier than 1980 a quantity of international locations did, together with the Netherlands and Costa Rica. However in July of that yr, Israel handed a regulation that declared Jerusalem the united capital of Israel. The United Nations Safety Council responded with a decision condemning Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem and declared it a violation of worldwide regulation.

So international locations moved their embassies out of the town?

Appropriate. In 2006, Costa Rica and El Salvador had been the final to maneuver their embassies out of Jerusalem, becoming a member of the remaining of the world in finding their embassies in Tel Aviv.

What about consulates?

Some international locations do preserve consulates in Jerusalem, together with the US, which has one within the western half of the town. Different international locations — comparable to Britain and France as an example — have a consulate within the jap half of the town, which function their international locations’ major illustration within the Palestinian territories.

Simply to be clear: What is America’s place?

The US has by no means had its embassy in Jerusalem. It has all the time been in Tel Aviv, with the Ambassador’s residence in Herzliya Pituach, about 30 minutes north.

That sounds fairly easy …

Wait a minute, it will get extra difficult. In 1989, Israel started leasing to the US a plot of land in Jerusalem for a brand new embassy. The 99-year lease value $1 per yr. To at the present time, the plot has not been developed, and it stays an empty area.

OK. Hold going…

In 1995, the US Congress handed a regulation requiring America to maneuver the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Proponents mentioned the US ought to respect Israel’s selection of Jerusalem as its capital, and acknowledge it as such.

So why hasn’t the embassy moved but?

Each President since 1995 — Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama — has declined to maneuver the embassy, citing nationwide safety pursuits. Each six months, the President has used the presidential waiver to bypass the embassy transfer.

How have Israelis responded to this?

The Israeli authorities has lauded Trump’s pledge to observe by with the embassy transfer. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has been maybe essentially the most outspoken advocate, launching a marketing campaign simply days earlier than the US President’s inauguration, urging him to make good on his promise.

And what do the Palestinians make of all of it?

Palestinian leaders are adamant that an embassy transfer to Jerusalem can be a violation of worldwide regulation, and an enormous setback to peace hopes.

President Mahmoud Abbas has turned to different world leaders, together with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Jordan’s King Abdullah, to assist strain Trump to alter his thoughts. The Palestine Liberation Group has urged it will take into account revoking its recognition of Israel, and canceling all agreements between Israelis and Palestinians, ought to the transfer happen.

Extra instantly, there are fears it might set off a wave of unrest — even perhaps avenue protests and violence — within the Palestinian territories and throughout the Arab world.

CNN’s Caroline Kenny contributed to this text.



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