Israel occupied East Jerusalem at the end of the 1967 War with Syria, Egypt and Jordan; the western half of the holy city had been captured in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem effectively put the entire city under de facto Israeli control. Israeli jurisdiction and ownership of Jerusalem, however, is not recognized by the international community.
Under the 1947 UN Partition Plan to divide historical Palestine between Jewish and Arab states, Jerusalem was granted special status and was meant to be placed under international sovereignty and control. The special status was based on Jerusalem’s religious importance to the three Abrahamic religions.
In the 1948 war, following the UN’s recommendation to divide Palestine, Zionist forces took control of the western half of the city and declared the territory part of its state. During the 1967 war, Israel captured the eastern half of Jerusalem, which was under Jordanian control at the time, and proceeded to effectively annex it by extending Israeli law, bringing it directly under its jurisdiction, in a breach of international law.
In 1980, Israel passed the “Jerusalem Law”, stating that “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel”, thereby formalizing its annexation of East Jerusalem. In response, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 478 in 1980, declaring the law “null and void”.
The international community, including the USA, officially regards East Jerusalem as occupied territory. Additionally, no country in the world recognizes any part of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, with the exception of Russia, which announced its recognition of West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel earlier in 2017.
Despite Israel’s de facto annexation of East Jerusalem, Palestinians who live there were not granted Israeli citizenship. In the meantime, any Jew around the world enjoys the right to live in Israel and to obtain Israeli citizenship under Israel’s Law of Return.
Today, some 420,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem have “permanent residency” ID cards. They also carry temporary Jordanian passports without a national identification number. This means that they are not full Jordanian citizens – they need a work permit to work in Jordan and do not have access to governmental services and benefits such as reduced education fees.
Palestinian Jerusalemites are essentially stateless, stuck in legal limbo – they are not citizens of Israel, nor are they citizens of Jordan or Palestine. Israel treats Palestinians in East Jerusalem as foreign immigrants who live there as a favour granted to them by the state and not by right, despite having been born there. They are required to fulfil a certain set of requirements to maintain their residency status and live in constant fear of having their residency revoked.
Any Palestinian who has lived outside the boundaries of Jerusalem for a certain period of time, whether in a foreign country or even in the West Bank, is at risk of losing their right to live there. Those who cannot prove that the “center of their life” is in Jerusalem and that they have lived there continuously, lose their right to live in their city of birth. They must submit dozens of documents including title deeds, rent contracts and salary slips. Obtaining citizenship from another country also leads to the revocation of their status.
Since 1967, Israel has revoked the status of 14,000 Palestinians, according to Israeli rights group B’Tselem. Since 1967, Israel has built more than a dozen housing complexes for Jewish Israelis, known as settlements, some in the middle of Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.
About 200,000 Israeli citizens live in East Jerusalem under army and police protection, with the largest single settlement complex housing 44,000 Israelis. While Palestinians live under apartheid-like conditions, Israelis enjoy a sense of normality, guaranteed for them by their state.
The status of Jerusalem remains one of the main sticking points in efforts to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Al-Jazeera / AA Magnum News 2017.