It confounds me just what the hell sort of legs some people think they have the right to stand on in this world. I’m not the only one that gets that attitude when it comes to politics in the Middle East, and certainly not the only one who feels that way when it comes to the United Nations. If I weren’t following Israeli politics at all, I’d probably care two craps less about the organization, but since I live here I find myself obligated to try to wrap my head around what makes the organization think it actually has jurisdiction over Jerusalem and Bethlehem. The UN actually claims that both East Jerusalem AND West Jerusalem are its property that Israel has no rights over.
In 1947, as part of UN General Assembly resolution (GA) 181 that called for the partition of Britain’s ‘Mandate for Palestine,’ the GA recommended creating three bodies: a Jewish state, an Arab state and a corpus separatum (Latin: “separate body”) in Jerusalem and Bethlehem that would put it under international administration. After 65 years of the politics and having just an inkling of a clue how important Jerusalem is to global religious history, the idea of internationalizing the city makes some sense. But let’s review how binding that resolution was:
It wasn’t. As shocking as it is, we in Israel always consider the idea that the Jewish state was born on 29 November 1947 and born 14 May 1948 and then raised by fire. Only one organization ever went about implementing the resolution: David ben Gurion’s initial government for the State of Israel. Arab states rejected the resolution. On top of that, no Arab government was ever established to take the second half of the territory. And finally, no international committee was ever appointed to govern this international Jerusalem. Only Israel accepted a resolution that it wasn’t bound to accept. And in reality, it sort of still isn’t. Just following through with a General Assembly resolution doesn’t make it binding, especially if the resolution’s recommendations weren’t implemented with the other intended partners: the non-existent Arab state and non-existed international committee to oversee Jerusalem.
When the war ended in 1949, the GA again declared its “intention” to establish international rule over the city via the UN, but clearly that never happened. Considering the UN never put a policeman or soldier on the ground to manage the area, one really wonders what gives them any right to claim sovereignty over a city. Just because the General Assembly declares Cleveland part of the UN’s exclusive jurisdiction doesn’t mean actually becomes United Nations property. The same goes for Jerusalem (and Bethlehem, by the way). And yet, the UN expects Israelis to accept this farce.
Now, the UN has the audacity to claim its right to sovereignty over Jerusalem, therefore declaring that any Israeli assertion over any part of the city is illegal. That’s just bull. In 1950, the UN reduced the nearly $50 million dollars it had set up toward international administration and didn’t touch the topic for years. David Ben Gurion stopped worrying about the pressure to internationalize the city and the Knesset took its seat in Jerusalem on King George Street in 1950.
The UN’s own claim is awkward for a number of reasons, namely because it makes the entire organization a party to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and eliminates its ability to mediate the matter with impartiality. The UN claims its General Assembly resolutions on the matter are binding, when the world agrees they cannot force states to take action on anything. This is the reason Israel continues to ignore UN resolutions, because they are meaningless and self-interested. Every resolution passed there declaring any part of Jerusalem to be off limits to the State of Israel that has invested the most blood and money into the city are the rantings not of an international court of public opinion but of an organization trying to stake its own claim to the city.
Other international bodies, like the European Union for instance, have explicitly called for the creation of a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem while downplaying or outright ignoring the same imperative for an Israeli capital in West Jerusalem, despite claims of impartiality.
The world wants Israelis to stop ignoring them, but they are making themselves party to this conflict by their insistence of partiality and degradation of Israeli interests like the long-overdue and justified recognition of Israeli sovereignty in West Jerusalem and the acceptance of at least that half of the city as Israel’s indisputable capital. Disregard all you’ve ever heard about East Jerusalem and you’ll hear nothing about the Western half of the city. Peace negotiations have never, ever considered West Jerusalem to be anything but Israeli territory that will remain irrevocably in the hands of the Jewish State.
If the world and the United Nations want Israelis to take their proceedings and resolutions with any degree of seriousness, the UN and its members ought to recognize the UN’s theoretical claim to the city of Jerusalem is erroneous, prejudicial and an act of interference in the sovereignty of the State of Israel.
Tel Aviv is not Israel’s capital: Jerusalem is. If the world wants to continue the debate about East Jerusalem, be my guest, but stop this charade with the Western half of the city and move your embassies.
Check out my post that goes into more legal depth with this argument on my personal site: Why Won’t the World Recognize West Jerusalem?