Trump’s decision on Jerusalem is meaningless under international law

Trump’s announcement panders to an internal American audience at the cost of the peace process.


2017/12/17 Issue: 136 Page: 16


The Arab Weekly
Fadi Farhat



US President Donald Trump’s announce­ment to recognise Je­rusalem as the capital of Israel and relocate the US Embassy to the city came as a surprise to many in the international community. It need not have been as surprising as it was.

It was an election pledge and if we have learnt anything about Trump since he became president it is that he has shown a clear appetite to implement his election promises.

However, the issue of Jerusalem is no ordinary pledge. Trump has gone where no US president has dared to go since 1995. For more than 20 years, US presidents de­ferred recognition of Jerusalem due to the toxicity and polemic-generat­ing nature of Jerusalem.

When one looks at the world’s great cities from London to Tokyo, from Paris to New York or the great cities of antiquity, such as Athens and Rome, no other place in the world generates as much hearty emotion, rage, anger, love and interest as Jerusalem.

Putting the political repercus­sions aside, Trump’s announce­ment is almost meaningless under international law. Trump and US policy (with a handful of other countries in the mix) are lone wolves within the landscape of international law.

Two years after the United Na­tions was formed, Resolution 181 was passed calling for Jerusalem to be a corpus separatum. Shrouded in mystic Latinity, this status recog­nised Jerusalem as a unique place — so unique that, almost like the Vatican, the usual machinery of a nation-state would not apply to it.

When Israel became a full UN member on May 11, 1949, the posi­tion of other member-states was that Jerusalem cannot be regarded Israel’s capital. Interestingly, the first notable actions of recognition came from the United Kingdom and Pakistan, which recognised East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.

Following the 1967 war, which resulted in Israel’s de facto control over Jerusalem, there were growing calls within Israel to pass legisla­tion to recognise Jerusalem as its capital. Eventually, Israel’s Knes­set passed legislation declaring a “complete and united” Jerusalem as its capital in July 1980. This law was declared null and void by the UN Security Council through Resolu­tion 478. The Security Council has passed six resolutions on this issue that affirm that a “complete and united” Jerusalem cannot be regarded as the capital of Israel. The Security Council’s resolutions are legally binding on international matters.

The UN General Assembly, through Resolution 63/30 of 2009, stated that “any actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the Holy City of Jerusalem are illegal and therefore null and void and have no validity whatsoever, and calls upon Israel to cease all such illegal and unilateral measures.”

General Assembly Resolution 66/18 was passed in 2012 affirming the continued validity of Resolution 63/30.

The International Court of Justice in its 2004 advisory opinion on the “Legal Consequences of the Con­struction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory” described East Jerusalem as “occupied Pales­tinian territory.”

This would mean that Trump’s announcement, which makes no distinction between West and East Jerusalem, is not compatible with the opinion of the world’s most authoritative court.

Trump asserts that his announce­ment is merely reflective of the real­ity on the ground. That may be but the reality on the ground does not obtain legal validity if that reality itself is a consequence of unlaw­ful imposition as declared by the United Nations and International Court of Justice. It also runs counter to most countries’ practice of locat­ing their embassies in Tel Aviv.

Trump’s announcement panders to an internal American audience at the cost of the peace process. There are many facets to it, including the situation in Gaza as well as other settlements. Jerusalem, however, will be the largest obstacle. The in­ternational community recognises a two-state solution with Jerusalem as being an integral component of both states. The main problem is that, within Israel, there is no politi­cal appetite to give up any part of Jerusalem.

A poll by the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs conducted in 2012 indicated that 78% of Jewish voters asked said that they would recon­sider voting for any politician if that person wanted to relinquish Israel’s control over the Old City and East Jerusalem.

Israeli politicians are fully aware of public opinion. The position within Israel today is no different than in 1995 when Yitzhak Rabin is famously said to have told school­children that “if they told us peace is the price of giving up a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty, my reply would be ‘let’s do without peace’.”

This position is not uniquely Israeli. Jerusalem’s splendour and aura are such that empires, rulers, knights, kings and generals as well as administrations across the best part of a thousand years have viewed peace as an inferior prize if it meant losing control over any part of Jerusalem.


Fadi Farhat is a lawyer based in Britain.


As Printed
MENA Now
Editors' Picks

The Arab Weekly Newspaper reaches Western & Arabic audience that are influential as well as being affluent.

From Europe to the Middle East,and North America, The Arab Weekly talks to opinion formers and influential figures, providing insight and comment on national, international and regional news through the focus of Arabic countries and community.

Published by Al Arab Publishing House

Publisher and Group Executive Editor: Haitham El-Zobaidi, PhD

Editor-in-Chief: Oussama Romdhani

Managing Editor: Iman Zayat

Deputy Managing Editor and Online Editor: Mamoon Alabbasi

Senior Editor: John Hendel

Chief Copy Editor: Richard Pretorius

Copy Editor: Stephen Quillen

Analysis Section Editor: Ed Blanche

East/West Section Editor: Mark Habeeb

Gulf Section Editor: Mohammed Alkhereiji

Society and Travel Sections Editor: Samar Kadi

Syria and Lebanon Sections Editor: Simon Speakman Cordall

Contributing Editor: Rashmee Roshan Lall

Senior Correspondents: Mahmud el-Shafey (London) & Lamine Ghanmi (Tunis)

Regular Columnists

Claude Salhani

Yavuz Baydar

Correspondents

Saad Guerraoui (Casablanca)

Dunia El-Zobaidi (London)

Roua Khlifi (Tunis)

Thomas Seibert (Washington)

Chief Designer: Marwen Hmedi

Designers

Ibrahim Ben Bechir

Hanen Jebali

Published by Al Arab Publishing House

Contact editor at:editor@thearabweekly.com

Subscription & Advertising: Ads@alarab.co.uk

Tel 020 3667 7249

Mohamed Al Mufti

Marketing & Advertising Manager

Tel (Main) +44 20 6702 3999

Direct: +44 20 8742 9262

www.alarab.co.uk

Al Arab Publishing House

Kensington Centre

177-179 Hammersmith Road

London W6 8BS , UK

Tel: (+44) 20 7602 3999

Fax: (+44) 20 7602 8778

Follow Us
© The Arab Weekly, All rights reserved