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US Embassy in Jerusalem (Relevant for GS Prelims, GS Mains Paper II; International Organizations and Bilateral Relations)

What it means?
The embassy inauguration followed Trump’s December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

International consensus has been that the city’s status must be negotiated between the two sides, but Trump broke with that to global outrage.

He has argued that it helps make peace possible by taking Jerusalem “off the table”, but many have noted he has not announced any concessions in return from Israel.

Beyond the disputed nature of Jerusalem, the date of the embassy move was also key. May 14 marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of Israel.

Issue of Jerusalem
Jerusalem is the ancient city that is sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians. After the end of the first Arab–Israel War in 1948, Jerusalem was partitioned into West and East, under Israeli and Palestinian control, respectively. However, in June 1967, during the Six-Day Arab-Israel War, Israel occupied East Jerusalem from Jordanian forces, and Israel’s Parliament declared the territory had been ‘annexed to Israel’ and Jerusalem had been ‘reunited’.

Annexation of East Jerusalem marginalized the Palestinians. Palestinians want to make East Jerusalem as their capital under the ‘two-state solution’. To enhance its control, Israel added over 200,000 Jewish settlers to East Jerusalem. In December 2016, the UN reaffirmed that East Jerusalem is the territory of Palestine and is presently under ‘hostile occupation’. Foreign embassies to Israel are in Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem.

Why is Jerusalem so important?
Jerusalem has the Western Wall, part of the mount on which the Holy Temple stood, containing the most sacred Jewish site; Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam; and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where Jesus is believed to have been crucified, and where he rose again. Millions visit these shrines.

About 37% of Jerusalem’s population are Arabs. However, Palestinians live in Jerusalem with residence permits that can be revoked anytime. Palestines live in separate enclaves and the development funds are also used in discriminating manner.

There have been reports of Israeli soldiers targeting Palestinian civilians.

US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel
In December 2017, President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Trump recognizing Jerusalem as the capital solely of Israel is symbolic of a huge policy shift.

(Adapted from The Indian Express and Background from PrepMate Cengage IOBR Book, Chapter 13)



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