By: Toine van Teeffelen
Toine van Teeffelen, Head of Education at the AEI-Open Windows Centre in Bethlehem, writes: 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 neighbourhoods - 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 neighbourhoods.
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