us recognition of jerusalem

20th December 2017

What did the US do on 6th December 2017?

  • Recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
  • Stated their intention to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.

The reasons why the US did that: (taken from POTUS Donald Trump’s speech on 6/12/2017):

  • He wants a new approach to tackle the Israel-Palestinian conflict. After two decades of US Presidents signing a waiver not to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, he believes the situation is no closer to peace.
  • He has the overwhelming support of congress that passed the act and reaffirmed by unanimous vote by the senate.
  • He says recognition of Jerusalem would advance the cause of peace.
  • He says Israel should determine its own capital.
  • He says Israel is the location of the Israel government, parliament, Supreme Court, and residence of the prime minister and president.
  • He says US Presidents and Foreign Ministers in the past have met Israeli counterparts in Jerusalem.
  • He says it’s the right thing to do and it’s the recognition of reality.
  • He says the action of moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem is consistent with the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995.
  • He says this announcement does not mean the US take a position on the final status issue, which includes the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty and resolution of contested territory.
  • The US still support a two state solution if agreed by both sides.

What did the European Union say about this (on the 8th December 2017 at the UN Security Council)?

  • They disagree with the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
  • They disagree with the preparation to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.

The reasons why they disagree is because: (taken from a joint speech by Swedish/French/Italian/British/German permanent representatives of the United Nations at a UNSC press conference on 8th December 2017):

  • It is not in line with Security Council resolutions.
  • It is unhelpful for the prospects of peace in the region.
  • The status of Jerusalem must be negotiated with Israel and Palestine leading to a final status agreement.
  • Within this framework, Jerusalem should be the capital of both Israel and Palestine.
  • Until any final status agreement between both parties have been negotiated, the EU recognises no sovereignty over Jerusalem.
  • In line with international law and UNSC resolutions 476, 478 and 2334, the EU considers East Jerusalem as part of the Occupied Palestinian territories.
  • Agreement on the borders of two states should be based on 4th June 1967 lines, with equivalent land swaps, as may be agreed by both parties.
  • The EU will not recognise any changes to the pre-1967 borders including Jerusalem other than those agreed by the parties.
  • The EU shares a willingness to put the conflict to an end.
  • The EU notes the commitment from President Trump to support the two state solution if agreed by both sides and his clear acknowledgement of specific boundaries must be subject to negotiations between both parties.
  • The EU stands ready to contribute to efforts to restart the peace process on the basis of internationally agreed principles and parameters leading to a two state solution.
  • The EU encourages the US to give detailed proposals of an Israeli-Palestinian settlement.

UNSC debate on a draft resolution on Jerusalem (18th December 2017):

In a draft resolution put forward by Egypt to call upon all states not to establish diplomatic missions in Jerusalem, the UNSC voted 14-1, with affirmative votes for 14 states and 1 veto by the US. This meant the resolution was not passed. The US was alone as all members of the Security Council affirmed their adherence to international law.

Resolution 2334 in December 2016, was one of the Obama administrations last resolutions passed at the UNSC. The US chose to abstain, which meant the resolution passed. Resolution 2334 states that Israel must stop settlement activity and fulfill its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention as the occupying power.

In my opinion, the underscoring issue and prevention of peace (by means of a two state solution) is the continued building of Israeli settlements including on occupied Palestinian territory. This is a flagrant violation of international law. In an advisory opinion by the ICJ in July 2004 about the construction of a wall, the judgment read: “the illegal measures taken by Israel with regard to Jerusalem and the settlements and entailed further alterations to the demographic composition of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Court concluded that the construction of the wall, along with measures taken previously, severely impeded the exercise by the Palestinian people of its right to self-determination and was thus a breach of Israel’s obligation to respect that right.”

Israel’s action on the construction of settlements also contravenes UNSC resolution 2334 (2016). Which states:

“Reiterates its demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and that it fully respect all of its legal obligations in this regard...

Stresses that the cessation of all Israeli settlement activities is essential for salvaging the two-State solution, and calls for affirmative steps to be taken immediately to reverse the negative trends on the ground that are imperilling the two-State solution”

Donald Trump’s speech said we are no closer to peace. But what has UNSC resolution 2334 actually done since it was passed in December 2016? Nikolay Mladenov, UN Special Middle East Peace Process Co-ordinator said on 18th December 2017:

“The number of Palestinian structures demolished in 2017 in the West Bank was significantly lower than in 2016, and the lowest since 2009. In total 400 Palestinian structures were demolished in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem during 2017, a decline compared to over 1000 structures in 2016. Settlement related activities undermine the establishment of a viable Palestinian state as part of a two state solution. Since resolution 2334 there has been a significant reduction in number of violent attacks. In 2017 there were 109 instances of shootings, stabbings, ramming, and bombing attacks compared to 223 similar attacks in 2016.”

So why can’t the world do something?! One word: sovereignty. In US Ambassador Nikki Haley’s first sentence of her speech stating the US’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the intention to move the US embassy there: “In this meeting, I will not use council’s time to address where a sovereign nation might decide to put its embassy and why we have every right to do so.” She goes on to say that the United Nations is doing more harm than good for the cause of peace, and if it was possible to go back in time to cast a vote again on resolution 2334, the US would say no (rather than abstain).

In December 2016, at the adoption of resolution 2334, Ambassador Samantha Power from the Obama administration started her speech quoting Ronald Reagan from 1982: “Further settlement activity is in no way necessary for the security of Israel and only diminishes the confidence of the Arabs that a final outcome can be freely and fairly negotiated.”

She continues to say that the US has been sending a message that Israeli settlements must stop publicly and privately for nearly five decades from Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush, Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Barack Obama. Their vote to abstain (from 2334) is fully in line with bipartisan history of how American presidents have approached the issue. It shows a consistency of their position.

The issue with sovereignty is that a state can’t force another state to act, despite the amount of international consensus there is or court judgments written.

Finding a new definition, or new route or solution to sovereignty has been particularly looked at in regards to international crimes.

Let us discuss sovereignty in relation to the responsibility to protect:

r2p principles.png

The meaning is this: sovereignty yields to the responsibility to protect. If a state cannot protect its own peoples, states can intervene to protect them.

My thinking is this: can these principles of the responsibility to protect also carve a way to the peace process in Israel?

Can the bloodshed and violence- including driving cars into crowds of innocent civilians and stabbing mothers in front of their children in the Israel-Palestine conflict be stopped by convincing Israel to stop their settlements to pave way to a two state solution? Do Israel not realise that their actions are perpetuating this violence?

Samantha Power also noted in her 2016 speech that the Israeli Prime Minister recently described his government as “more committed to settlements than any in Israel’s history,” and one of his leading coalition partners recently declared that “the era of the two-state solution is over.”

It is disheartening that while the world disagrees with this, as expressed through the UNSC vote on the 18th December 2017, Resolution 2334, ICJ judgment of July 2004 and previous resolutions (476, 478), Israel continues settlement activity that won’t achieve peace, that is until the current Israel administration is no longer in power. If Israel offers extends their hands of peace, of saying to the Palestinians that the despite the violence, the killings of Israeli security guards and rocket attacks from Hamas, we are willing to put all these issues aside for the sake of peace. We acknowledge your right to exist, we will listen to your peoples and make substantial progress on the two state solution to resolve this conflict.




References: - UN Press report 18th December 2017. Advisory opinion by the ICJ in July 2004. Ambassador Power’s speech Dec 2016. – 2001 Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty on the Responsibility to Protect. – 18th Dec UNSC debate on Jerusalem – Emergency UNSC (8128th) meeting 8th December on US declaring Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. (including EU statement at 2:24.30) – Donald Trump speech recognising Israel 6th Dec 2017. UNSC resolution 2334