The United States inaugurates its embassy in Jerusalem Monday, overwhelming Israelis by endorsing President Donald Trump’s recognition of the city as their capital, and repelling Palestinians who shout “an act of hostility” against international law .
The keys to understanding why this transfer ignites passions.
History and religion
Jews have regarded Jerusalem as their capital for more than 3,000 years. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 by the Romans and the dispersion of the Jewish people, Judaism has always evoked a return to Jerusalem. “Next year in Jerusalem” is a central incantation of this religion.
For the Israelis, the American decision is the recognition, being too late, of a historical reality.
Palestinians, who represent more than a third of the city’s population, claim Jerusalem as the capital of the state they aspire to.
For the Palestinian leadership, the US initiative represents the pinnacle of the pro-Israel bias of the Trump administration and violates international law. It discredits the United States in the role of peace mediator, they say. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has suspended relations with US officials.
Religion exacerbates sensibilities. Jerusalem is holy for Christians, Jews and Muslims and is home to sacred sites for all three religions.
A disputed status
A plan approved by the UN in 1947 provided for the partition of Palestine, then under British mandate, into a Jewish state and an Arab state, with Jerusalem under international control. This plan was accepted by Zionist leaders, but rejected by Arab leaders.
After the departure of the British and after the first Arab-Israeli war, the State of Israel was created in 1948. It made West Jerusalem its capital in 1949. East Jerusalem remains under the control of Jordan.
Israel seizes East Jerusalem during the 1967 war and annex. Israelis say they have “reunited” the city.
A fundamental law passed in 1980 endorses Jerusalem as Israel’s “eternal and indivisible” capital.
But the UN Security Council declares the law “null and void,” and calls on all states that have established their diplomatic mission in Jerusalem to withdraw it.
The UN considers East Jerusalem as occupied by Israel and believes that embassies should not reside in Jerusalem until the status of the city is settled through negotiations between the Palestinian and Israeli sides.
The position of the United States
The US Congress passed a law in 1995 establishing that “Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the state of Israel”, and that the US embassy should be transferred to Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999. Since then, US presidents postponed the move from six months to six months, until the December 6 decision was made by Mr. Trump.
On 21 December, the UN General Assembly, by a large majority, passed a resolution condemning Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
In spite of this international condemnation and Palestinian indignation, Washington considers that this unilateral decision will favor the search for peace by eliminating what it presents as an obstacle to the negotiations.
At the end of February, President Trump launched: “Jerusalem was the right thing to do. We have settled the question “.