(photo credit: REUTERS)
The status of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has become one of the greatest make-believe issues in the history of international relations. Few are the cases in which the international community has ignored reality and worked against its own declared policy as in the case of Jerusalem.
Certainly there are occasions in international relations in which a modicum of make-believe is necessary to ameliorate conflicts and prevent crises. However, in this case, the degree and persistence of make-believe is quite singular.
The official stance of the international community is that a future peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs ought to be based on the boundaries prevailing prior to the Six Day War in June 1967, which included west Jerusalem as an integral part of Israel.
Further, the official position of the Palestinian Authority is that east Jerusalem should become the capital of a future Palestinian state.
If that is so, what is the problem of at least west Jerusalem being recognized as Israel’s capital? Indeed, why shouldn’t the embassies of all the countries that recognize Israel be located in west Jerusalem? The argument adduced by the governments of many states, particularly in Europe, is that such a move might be possible following a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs.
That, of course, is a legitimate argument, but it contradicts the official position of those same governments as west Jerusalem would remain under Israeli control following a peace agreement, even according to the PA.
If west Jerusalem is not recognized as part of Israeli sovereign territory, and thus is not allowed to be Israel’s capital, when all the maps of a future peace agreement entail the continued control by Israel of at least west Jerusalem, why on earth accept any other part of pre- 1967 Israel as sovereign Israeli territory? What is the difference then between, say, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Beersheba and west Jerusalem? The boundaries existing before the outbreak of the Six Day War included the four aforementioned cities as part of Israeli sovereign territory.
Israel is a unique case in international law. According to the international community it has no capital. The embassies are located in Tel Aviv while the Israeli government, parliament and the Supreme Court are located in west Jerusalem.
The argument according to which an international recognition of at least west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital might produce an adverse effect in the Arab and Muslim world is understandable, though illogical.
As mentioned before, even the PA, and with it the Arab countries, claims that a future peace agreement would have to be based on the June 1967 borders. Thus, according to the official Arab position, west Jerusalem, at least, would remain under Israeli control.
Why wait for a final peace agreement in the case of west Jerusalem, and not in the case of any other city in Israel? This is not a matter of ideology, but of logic.
The time has come to eschew fictional solutions and imaginary realities and start recognizing what the international community claims it does anyway – that at least west Jerusalem is an integral part of Israeli sovereign territory and will remain so even following a peace agreement.The author is a lecturer at the Diplomacy Studies Program, Political Science Department, Tel Aviv University. He holds a doctorate in modern history from Oxford University and a master’s degree in international relations from Cambridge University.
He read for his B.A. in history at Tel Aviv University.