The Jerusalem question

The city of Jerusalem is currently in the international limelight on account of President Trump’s recent Jerusalem move. So, the status of Jerusalem has instantly become the most contentious issue in the Middle East. This very issue involves the future of so-called two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Similarly, the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state is also contingent upon the final determination of the Jerusalem question. Therefore, the Jerusalem issue is now occupying the pivotal position in the Middle East peace process.

The US has tried to persuade other countries in the world to oppose the recent UN General Assembly’s anti-Israel resolution by extensively employing some diplomatic and ‘extra-diplomatic’ tools. However, the US had to suffer a humiliating defeat when UN General Assembly just rescinded the Washington’s Jerusalem move on December 21 by passing a resolution by overwhelming majority. No significant country supported the US on this issue. The 193-member Assembly expressed ‘deep regret’ over Washington’s recent decision concerning the status of Jerusalem and stressed that the “final status issue to be resolved through negotiations in line with relevant UN resolutions”. Though this non-binding resolution can’t deter the US from moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, it has great symbolic significance. This resolution shows that the international community still adheres to the past UN resolutions seeking the settlement of Palestinian issue based on the so-called two-state solution. It has also exposed the Washington’s isolation in the world on Jerusalem issue. Besides India, even the US all-weather NATO allies didn’t support it on this issue.

The 1947 UN Partition Plan for Palestine recommended a Special International Regime for the city of Jerusalem. Later, a number of UN Security Council Resolutions, especially Resolution 242 (1967) and Resolution 338 (1973), have consistently affirmed that East Jerusalem is an occupied Palestinian territory subject to the provision of Fourth Geneva Convention. The UNSC Resolution 478 is one of the seven important resolutions condemning the Israel’s attempted annexation of East Jerusalem in 1980. International Court of Justice, in its 2004 advisory opinion on the “Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory” also described East Jerusalem as ‘occupied Palestinian territory’. Similarly, according to the Oslo Accords- a set of agreements concluded between the government of Israel and PLO in 1990’s- the city of Jerusalem is a disputed territory whose ‘final status’ is yet to be determined.

It is quite regrettable that both Israel and the US are actively endeavouring to unilaterally determine the final status of Jerusalem for a long time in sheer violation of international law and numerous UNSC resolutions. In 1980, Israel’s Knesset passed the controversial ‘Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel’ which declared Jerusalem a ‘complete and united’ capital of Israel. Similarly, in 1995, the US Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act, whereby the US formally acknowledged Jerusalem as the ‘undivided’ capital of Israel. Now, in accordance with this law, the US is going to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Therefore, at the moment, both Israel and the US look absolutely determined to make Jerusalem an inseparable capital of the Jewish state to the exclusion of Palestinians.

As a matter of fact, the question of Jerusalem is fundamental to Palestinians’ just struggle to get an independent and sovereign state. The Muslims all over world have great respect, devotion and love for their Qibla-e-Awwal ie Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Muslim World is very concerned and hypersensitive towards the Palestinian issue as holy Al-Aqsa Mosque is just situated in Palestine. Therefore, if Israel succeeds in absorbing Jerusalem by exclusively exercising control over the entire city (including East Jerusalem), the prospects for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state would gradually be diminished as helpless Palestinians would lose their primary moral support base- the Muslim world. In that scenario, Palestinians would be as voiceless and hapless as Muslims are in Kashmir, Burma or elsewhere in the world. Moreover, Israel, after absorbing Jerusalem, would easily succeed in marginalizing or flushing Palestinians out from the besieged Gaza Strip and the scattered pockets in the West Bank. Both Israel and the US have already abandoned the ‘two-state solution’. In fact, as part of their well-though-out plan, now Israel and the US are trying to dilute the Palestinian issue by absorbing Jerusalem after declaring it Israel’s inseparable capital. Therefore, the final status of Jerusalem is a sort of question of life and death for the Palestinians. The international community, the Muslim World and Palestinians should by no means ignored or underestimate the importance of the Jerusalem question.

The so-called two-state solution essentially recommends the bifurcation of the city of Jerusalem into East Jerusalem and West Jerusalem, which are to be the capital of the state of Palestine and Israel respectively. It is generally believed that the bifurcation of the city of Jerusalem under the two-state plan is more a pragmatic plan than an ideal one. However, a number of dishonest deceitful and cunning moves made by Israel and the US have somehow proved the fact that the bifurcation of the city of Jerusalem is no more a pragmatic plan. In fact, the two antagonist states can hardly mange to have their capital cities in close proximity to each other. Therefore, it is quite advisable to evolve another plan to determine the final status of the city of Jerusalem.

In 1947, the United Nations General Assembly, through its resolution 181(II), approved a partition plan for the Palestine. This resolution says: “The City of Jerusalem shall be established as a corpus separatum under a special international regime and shall be administrated by the United Nations”. The European Union has also supported to grant Jerusalem a legal status of corpus separatum under a special international regime. The 1947 UN Partition Plan for the Palestine is still relevant, and can offer a pragmatic plan as far as the city of Jerusalem is concerned. In fact, Jerusalem is a holy city to Muslims, Christians and Jews alike. Therefore, keeping in view of Jerusalem’s unique religious significance among the world’s three major religions, the city of Jerusalem can be declared an international city under some special arrangements made by the UN. There is really no point in jeopardizing the peace and order of this sacred city by declaring it the capital of either Israel or Palestine, or both.

The international community has recognized Tel Aviv as the capital of Israel. A large number of countries have established their embassies in Tel Aviv. Similarly, Ramallah currently serves as the de facto administrative capital of Palestinian National Authority (PNA). Therefore, Tel Aviv and Ramallah can continue to be the future capital of Israel and Palestine respectively. Israelis and Palestinians also have an option to make an administrative arrangement to jointly exercise control over the city of Jerusalem after declaring it a condominium in accordance with international law, provided both nations agree to live peacefully side by side under the so-called two-state solution or otherwise.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is currently being seen frequently citing the Bible to prove a historical fact that Jerusalem is the ‘eternal capital’ of Israel. It is really unfortunate that Israel has chosen to misquote Bible scriptures to perpetuate injustice by usurping the hapless Palestinians’ rights. Israel must accept the current ground realties in the region rather resorting to immemorial past. Just like Israelis, Palestinians are also the descendants of Abraham. Therefore, they are equally entitled to this ‘Holy Land’. In fact, Palestinian issue must be a matter of serious concern for the Arab World. Indeed, the neighbouring Arab countries will be in a severe trouble, if Isreal decides to expand the limits of the ‘Promised Land’ from the river of Egypt to the great river (the Euphrates) strictly in accordance with another Biblical prophecy.

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