For decades, Jerusalem has been a contentious issue between Israel and Palestine. With both claiming the city as its capital, most UN countries have avoided weighing in – placing their Israel embassies in Tel Aviv.
On 14th May, the US Embassy in Israel was moved to Jerusalem, following President Donald Trump’s controversial decision last December.
The Jerusalem Embassy Act
In 1995, a law was passed in the US congress regarding the relocation of the US Embassy in Israel.
The Act stated that ‘each sovereign nation, under international law and custom, may designate its own capital’ and that ‘the United States Embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999’.
However Section 7 of the Act allows for a Presidential waiver of six months if ‘such suspension is necessary to protect the national security interests of the United States’. This waiver has been implemented every six months since the Act became law.
Until, that is, December 2017, when it was announced that President Donald Trump would move the Embassy to Jerusalem and – in doing so – formally acknowledge Israel’s claim on the city.
Jerusalem is a historically and spiritually important city – particularly for the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Islam and Christianity).
There have been various periods of different control over the city – most notably of the Jewish Biblical (or Iron Age) state of Israel/Judah and the Arab Ayyubid Dynasty during era of The Crusades.
After the Second World War and the Holocaust there was a large displacement of Jewish people. British and American powers formed a committee which eventually concluded in the settlement of around 100,000 Jewish people to Palestine.
On 14th May 1948, when the British Mandate over Palestine had expired, The Declaration Of The Establishment Of The State Of Israel was announced. Nearly a year later, Israel was accepted in the United Nations.
After the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, the western area of the city was under Israeli control while the eastern area was controlled by Jordan. After the Third Arab-Israeli war, also known as The Six Day War, Israel took control of both the east and the west.
No other country recognises Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem as no agreement has been settled.
Tensions have been high between Israel and Palestine ever since and on the same day that the US Embassy moved to Jerusalem, protests in Gaza once again turned lethal with over 50 Palestinians killed and over 2000 injured.
The UN has condemned the move in a General Assembly vote and, in a statement issued on the 8th December 2017, UN Special Coordinator Nickolay Mladenov stated that “It is now more important than ever that we preserve the prospects for peace.”