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100, August 2006 Latest update 9 2014f August 2014, at 4.39 am
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The Legal Status of Jerusalem
By Diana Buttu

Perhaps no city in the world has been the subject of as many international statements and resolutions as Jerusalem. Yet, despite the abundance of such statements and resolutions, the four-decade crisis of colonization that Jerusalem has faced has gone largely unaddressed. 

More interestingly, as the international community is now pushing for the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1559 in Lebanon, it has completely ignored the scores of Security Council resolutions against Israel (dating 40 years) and its own stated foreign policy.  Below are some resolutions and statements pertaining to Jerusalem.

Background
The 1947 UN Partition Plan (General Assembly Resolution) that proposed the partition of Palestine into two, an “Arab” state and a “Jewish” state also recommended that Jerusalem and its environs be internationalized and administered separately, without being allocated to either the Arab or Jewish state. The Plan provided that:



The City of Jerusalem shall be established as a corpus separatum under a special international regime and shall be administered by the United Nations.



The boundaries of the city were defined to include what are now East and West Jerusalem, including the areas up to Abu Dis, Ein Karem, Shu’fat and Bethlehem. The borders of the “Jewish state,” as defined in the 1947 Partition Plan, remain the only internationally recognized ones.

During the 1948 war, Israel ignored the Partition Plan and invaded and occupied an estimated 84 percent of the city (as defined by the UN). Jordanian forces prevented 11.5% of the city from being occupied (including the Old City) and the remaining area was defined as “no-man’s land.”  In 1967, Israel militarily occupied the remaining parts of the city. After each occupation, Israel took a number of measures to change the status of the city. In September 1948, Israel established the Supreme Court in West Jerusalem, followed by the Knesset. In 1950 Jerusalem was proclaimed by Israel as the capital city. Following Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, Israel adopted a number of measures to unite East Jerusalem with West Jerusalem: (1) Israel unilaterally expanded the borders of Israeli-defined municipal Jerusalem. The borders were drawn in such a way as to incorporate undeveloped Palestinian land into the expanded city while leaving Palestinian population centres outside of the new borders; (2) Israel passed legislation mandating the application of Israeli law to East Jerusalem; (3) In 1980, Israel enacted the “Basic Law” which de facto amounted to Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem by declaring the entire city to be the capital of Israel; and (4) in those undeveloped areas of East Jerusalem that were “incorporated” into the municipal boundary of Jerusalem, Israel built (and continues to build) illegal Israeli-only colonies while demolishing Palestinian homes. Most recently, in order to consolidate its hold on this land, Israel has constructed its Wall and accelerated the demolition of Palestinian homes while undertaking measures to rid Jerusalem of its Palestinian Arab residents. It is against this backdrop that the positions of the UN, EU and US must be understood.

International Positions on Jerusalem
Jerusalem is Occupied Territory

• The UN has repeatedly upheld that East Jerusalem is Occupied Territory, subject to the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention. For example, UN Security Council Resolution 267 (1969) of 3 July 1969 states:
Reaffirming the established principle that the acquisition of territory by military conquest is inadmissible, deplores the failure of Israel to show any regard for the resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council; censures in the strongest terms all measures taken to change the status of the city of Jerusalem; and urgently calls once more on Israel to rescind all measures taken by it to change the status of Jerusalem and in the future to refrain from all actions likely to have such an effect. Determines that in the event of a negative response or no response from Israel, the Security Council shall reconvene without delay to consider what further action should be taken in this matter.

• This, along with other Resolutions, were later upheld by the International Court of Justice’s opinion on the Wall which found:
The territories situated between the Green Line and the former eastern boundary under the Mandate of Palestine were occupied by Israel in 1967…All these territories (including East Jerusalem) remain occupied territories and Israel has continued to have the status of an occupying Power.
• On this issue, the EU (in 1996) declared that:
East Jerusalem is subject to the principles set out in UN Security Council Resolution 242, notably the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force and is therefore not under Israeli sovereignty.

Moreover, Israel’s occupation of any part of Jerusalem has not been recognized by the international community. It is for this reason that virtually no states maintain embassies in Jerusalem (all are in Tel Aviv), despite Israel’s declaration that Jerusalem is its capital.

Israel’s expansion of the borders of municipal Jerusalem to incorporate East Jerusalem is illegal
• In response to Israel’s attempt to expand the municipal borders of Jerusalem and extend the application of Israeli law to the area, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 252 of 21 May 1968:
Deplores the failure of Israel to comply with General Assembly resolutions 2253 (ES-V) and 2254 (ES-V) of 4 and 14 July 1967; considers that all legislative and administrative measures taken by Israel, including the expropriation of land and properties thereon, which tend to change the legal status of Jerusalem are invalid and cannot change the status; and urgently calls upon Israel to rescind all such measures taken and to desist from further actions changing the status of Jerusalem.
• Official US policy does not recognize Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem. The official U.S. position, as embodied in the U.S. Letter of Assurances to the Palestinians (October 1991) reads:
We do not recognize Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem or the extension of its municipal boundaries, and we encourage all sides to avoid unilateral acts that would exacerbate local tensions or make negotiations more difficult or preempt their final outcome.

Israel’s colonization of East Jerusalem is illegal
• UN resolutions condemning Israel’s colonization of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem are numerous. For example, Security Council Resolution 465 of 1980 says:
Determines that all measures taken by Israel to change the physical character, composition, institutional structure or status of the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, or any part thereof, have no legal validity and that Israel’s policies and practices of settling parts of its population and new immigrants in those territories constitute a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and also constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East…
Strongly deplores the continuation and persistence of Israel in pursuing those policies and practices and calls upon the government and people of Israel to rescind those measures, to dismantle the existing settlements and in particular to cease, on an urgent basis, the establishment, construction and planning of settlements in the Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem…
Calls upon all States not to provide Israel with assistance to be used specifically in connection with settlements in the occupied territories…

Israel’s Wall is illegal
• In July 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled that Israel’s wall (also built in Jerusalem) is illegal.  The court ruled:
The construction of the wall, and its associated regime, are contrary to international law…
…[Israel must] cease forthwith the works of construction of the wall being built in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem.   
 All States are under an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem. They are also under an obligation not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by such construction. . . . In addition, all the State parties to the Geneva Convention. . . are under an obligation. . . to ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law as embodied in that Convention.

With all of these statements, one is left wondering why these policy statements have not been implemented and instead are compiled in volumes of books, collecting dust on some shelf somewhere.
Diana Buttu, a lawyer residing in Ramallah, is a member of the advisory board of TWIP. She can be reached at
dbuttu@yahoo.com.



The City of Jerusalem shall be established as a corpus separatum under a special international regime and shall be administered by the United Nations.



The boundaries of the city were defined to include what are now East and West Jerusalem, including the areas up to Abu Dis, Ein Karem, Shu’fat and Bethlehem. The borders of the “Jewish state,” as defined in the 1947 Partition Plan, remain the only internationally recognized ones.

During the 1948 war, Israel ignored the Partition Plan and invaded and occupied an estimated 84 percent of the city (as defined by the UN). Jordanian forces prevented 11.5% of the city from being occupied (including the Old City) and the remaining area was defined as “no-man’s land.”  In 1967, Israel militarily occupied the remaining parts of the city. After each occupation, Israel took a number of measures to change the status of the city. In September 1948, Israel established the Supreme Court in West Jerusalem, followed by the Knesset. In 1950 Jerusalem was proclaimed by Israel as the capital city. Following Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, Israel adopted a number of measures to unite East Jerusalem with West Jerusalem: (1) Israel unilaterally expanded the borders of Israeli-defined municipal Jerusalem. The borders were drawn in such a way as to incorporate undeveloped Palestinian land into the expanded city while leaving Palestinian population centres outside of the new borders; (2) Israel passed legislation mandating the application of Israeli law to East Jerusalem; (3) In 1980, Israel enacted the “Basic Law” which de facto amounted to Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem by declaring the entire city to be the capital of Israel; and (4) in those undeveloped areas of East Jerusalem that were “incorporated” into the municipal boundary of Jerusalem, Israel built (and continues to build) illegal Israeli-only colonies while demolishing Palestinian homes. Most recently, in order to consolidate its hold on this land, Israel has constructed its Wall and accelerated the demolition of Palestinian homes while undertaking measures to rid Jerusalem of its Palestinian Arab residents. It is against this backdrop that the positions of the UN, EU and US must be understood.

International Positions on Jerusalem
Jerusalem is Occupied Territory

• The UN has repeatedly upheld that East Jerusalem is Occupied Territory, subject to the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention. For example, UN Security Council Resolution 267 (1969) of 3 July 1969 states:
Reaffirming the established principle that the acquisition of territory by military conquest is inadmissible, deplores the failure of Israel to show any regard for the resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council; censures in the strongest terms all measures taken to change the status of the city of Jerusalem; and urgently calls once more on Israel to rescind all measures taken by it to change the status of Jerusalem and in the future to refrain from all actions likely to have such an effect. Determines that in the event of a negative response or no response from Israel, the Security Council shall reconvene without delay to consider what further action should be taken in this matter.

• This, along with other Resolutions, were later upheld by the International Court of Justice’s opinion on the Wall which found:
The territories situated between the Green Line and the former eastern boundary under the Mandate of Palestine were occupied by Israel in 1967…All these territories (including East Jerusalem) remain occupied territories and Israel has continued to have the status of an occupying Power.
• On this issue, the EU (in 1996) declared that:
East Jerusalem is subject to the principles set out in UN Security Council Resolution 242, notably the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force and is therefore not under Israeli sovereignty.

Moreover, Israel’s occupation of any part of Jerusalem has not been recognized by the international community. It is for this reason that virtually no states maintain embassies in Jerusalem (all are in Tel Aviv), despite Israel’s declaration that Jerusalem is its capital.

Israel’s expansion of the borders of municipal Jerusalem to incorporate East Jerusalem is illegal
• In response to Israel’s attempt to expand the municipal borders of Jerusalem and extend the application of Israeli law to the area, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 252 of 21 May 1968:
Deplores the failure of Israel to comply with General Assembly resolutions 2253 (ES-V) and 2254 (ES-V) of 4 and 14 July 1967; considers that all legislative and administrative measures taken by Israel, including the expropriation of land and properties thereon, which tend to change the legal status of Jerusalem are invalid and cannot change the status; and urgently calls upon Israel to rescind all such measures taken and to desist from further actions changing the status of Jerusalem.
• Official US policy does not recognize Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem. The official U.S. position, as embodied in the U.S. Letter of Assurances to the Palestinians (October 1991) reads:
We do not recognize Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem or the extension of its municipal boundaries, and we encourage all sides to avoid unilateral acts that would exacerbate local tensions or make negotiations more difficult or preempt their final outcome.

Israel’s colonization of East Jerusalem is illegal
• UN resolutions condemning Israel’s colonization of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem are numerous. For example, Security Council Resolution 465 of 1980 says:
Determines that all measures taken by Israel to change the physical character, composition, institutional structure or status of the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, or any part thereof, have no legal validity and that Israel’s policies and practices of settling parts of its population and new immigrants in those territories constitute a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and also constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East…
Strongly deplores the continuation and persistence of Israel in pursuing those policies and practices and calls upon the government and people of Israel to rescind those measures, to dismantle the existing settlements and in particular to cease, on an urgent basis, the establishment, construction and planning of settlements in the Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem…
Calls upon all States not to provide Israel with assistance to be used specifically in connection with settlements in the occupied territories…

Israel’s Wall is illegal
• In July 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled that Israel’s wall (also built in Jerusalem) is illegal.  The court ruled:
The construction of the wall, and its associated regime, are contrary to international law…
…[Israel must] cease forthwith the works of construction of the wall being built in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem.   
 All States are under an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem. They are also under an obligation not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by such construction. . . . In addition, all the State parties to the Geneva Convention. . . are under an obligation. . . to ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law as embodied in that Convention.

With all of these statements, one is left wondering why these policy statements have not been implemented and instead are compiled in volumes of books, collecting dust on some shelf somewhere.
Diana Buttu, a lawyer residing in Ramallah, is a member of the advisory board of TWIP. She can be reached at
dbuttu@yahoo.com.




The City of Jerusalem shall be established as a corpus separatum under a special international regime and shall be administered by the United Nations.



The boundaries of the city were defined to include what are now East and West Jerusalem, including the areas up to Abu Dis, Ein Karem, Shu’fat and Bethlehem. The borders of the “Jewish state,” as defined in the 1947 Partition Plan, remain the only internationally recognized ones.

During the 1948 war, Israel ignored the Partition Plan and invaded and occupied an estimated 84 percent of the city (as defined by the UN). Jordanian forces prevented 11.5% of the city from being occupied (including the Old City) and the remaining area was defined as “no-man’s land.”  In 1967, Israel militarily occupied the remaining parts of the city. After each occupation, Israel took a number of measures to change the status of the city. In September 1948, Israel established the Supreme Court in West Jerusalem, followed by the Knesset. In 1950 Jerusalem was proclaimed by Israel as the capital city. Following Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, Israel adopted a number of measures to unite East Jerusalem with West Jerusalem: (1) Israel unilaterally expanded the borders of Israeli-defined municipal Jerusalem. The borders were drawn in such a way as to incorporate undeveloped Palestinian land into the expanded city while leaving Palestinian population centres outside of the new borders; (2) Israel passed legislation mandating the application of Israeli law to East Jerusalem; (3) In 1980, Israel enacted the “Basic Law” which de facto amounted to Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem by declaring the entire city to be the capital of Israel; and (4) in those undeveloped areas of East Jerusalem that were “incorporated” into the municipal boundary of Jerusalem, Israel built (and continues to build) illegal Israeli-only colonies while demolishing Palestinian homes. Most recently, in order to consolidate its hold on this land, Israel has constructed its Wall and accelerated the demolition of Palestinian homes while undertaking measures to rid Jerusalem of its Palestinian Arab residents. It is against this backdrop that the positions of the UN, EU and US must be understood.

International Positions on Jerusalem
Jerusalem is Occupied Territory

• The UN has repeatedly upheld that East Jerusalem is Occupied Territory, subject to the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention. For example, UN Security Council Resolution 267 (1969) of 3 July 1969 states:
Reaffirming the established principle that the acquisition of territory by military conquest is inadmissible, deplores the failure of Israel to show any regard for the resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council; censures in the strongest terms all measures taken to change the status of the city of Jerusalem; and urgently calls once more on Israel to rescind all measures taken by it to change the status of Jerusalem and in the future to refrain from all actions likely to have such an effect. Determines that in the event of a negative response or no response from Israel, the Security Council shall reconvene without delay to consider what further action should be taken in this matter.

• This, along with other Resolutions, were later upheld by the International Court of Justice’s opinion on the Wall which found:
The territories situated between the Green Line and the former eastern boundary under the Mandate of Palestine were occupied by Israel in 1967…All these territories (including East Jerusalem) remain occupied territories and Israel has continued to have the status of an occupying Power.
• On this issue, the EU (in 1996) declared that:
East Jerusalem is subject to the principles set out in UN Security Council Resolution 242, notably the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force and is therefore not under Israeli sovereignty.

Moreover, Israel’s occupation of any part of Jerusalem has not been recognized by the international community. It is for this reason that virtually no states maintain embassies in Jerusalem (all are in Tel Aviv), despite Israel’s declaration that Jerusalem is its capital.

Israel’s expansion of the borders of municipal Jerusalem to incorporate East Jerusalem is illegal
• In response to Israel’s attempt to expand the municipal borders of Jerusalem and extend the application of Israeli law to the area, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 252 of 21 May 1968:
Deplores the failure of Israel to comply with General Assembly resolutions 2253 (ES-V) and 2254 (ES-V) of 4 and 14 July 1967; considers that all legislative and administrative measures taken by Israel, including the expropriation of land and properties thereon, which tend to change the legal status of Jerusalem are invalid and cannot change the status; and urgently calls upon Israel to rescind all such measures taken and to desist from further actions changing the status of Jerusalem.
• Official US policy does not recognize Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem. The official U.S. position, as embodied in the U.S. Letter of Assurances to the Palestinians (October 1991) reads:
We do not recognize Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem or the extension of its municipal boundaries, and we encourage all sides to avoid unilateral acts that would exacerbate local tensions or make negotiations more difficult or preempt their final outcome.

Israel’s colonization of East Jerusalem is illegal
• UN resolutions condemning Israel’s colonization of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem are numerous. For example, Security Council Resolution 465 of 1980 says:
Determines that all measures taken by Israel to change the physical character, composition, institutional structure or status of the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, or any part thereof, have no legal validity and that Israel’s policies and practices of settling parts of its population and new immigrants in those territories constitute a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and also constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East…
Strongly deplores the continuation and persistence of Israel in pursuing those policies and practices and calls upon the government and people of Israel to rescind those measures, to dismantle the existing settlements and in particular to cease, on an urgent basis, the establishment, construction and planning of settlements in the Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem…
Calls upon all States not to provide Israel with assistance to be used specifically in connection with settlements in the occupied territories…

Israel’s Wall is illegal
• In July 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled that Israel’s wall (also built in Jerusalem) is illegal.  The court ruled:
The construction of the wall, and its associated regime, are contrary to international law…
…[Israel must] cease forthwith the works of construction of the wall being built in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem.   
 All States are under an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem. They are also under an obligation not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by such construction. . . . In addition, all the State parties to the Geneva Convention. . . are under an obligation. . . to ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law as embodied in that Convention.

With all of these statements, one is left wondering why these policy statements have not been implemented and instead are compiled in volumes of books, collecting dust on some shelf somewhere.
Diana Buttu, a lawyer residing in Ramallah, is a member of the advisory board of TWIP. She can be reached at
dbuttu@yahoo.com.

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