With the Trump administration’s senseless decision to unilaterally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, it is important to understand the troubled history surrounding the contested claims to Jerusalem.

International community position

Under the 1947 UN Partition Plan to divide historical Palestine between Jewish and Arab states, Jerusalem was granted special status and was meant to be placed under international sovereignty and control. The special status was based on Jerusalem’s religious importance to the three Abrahamic religions. In the 1948 war, following the UN’s recommendation to divide Palestine, Zionist forces took control of the western half of the city and declared the territory part of its state.


During the 1967 war, Israel captured the eastern half of Jerusalem, which was under Jordanian control at the time, and proceeded to effectively annex it by extending Israeli law, bringing it directly under its jurisdiction, in a breach of international law.

In 1980, Israel passed the “Jerusalem Law”, stating that “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel”, thereby formalising its annexation of East Jerusalem. In response, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 478 in 1980, declaring the law “null and void”.

The international community, including the US, officially regards East Jerusalem as occupied territory. Additionally, no country in the world recognises any part of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, with the exception of Russia, which announced its recognition of West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel earlier this year. As of now, all embassies are based in Tel Aviv.

The illegal Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem violates several principles under international law, which outlines that an occupying power does not have sovereignty in the territory it occupies.