Quick Facts: Legal Status of Jerusalem


Institute for Middle East Understanding

Release Date

Monday, May 7, 2018


Legal Status of Jerusalem

  • Since Israel’s establishment in 1948, the United Nations and international community have not recognized the sovereignty of any country to any part of Jerusalem in the absence of a permanent peace agreement in the region.
  • Under the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine passed in November 1947, Jerusalem was to be governed by a special international regime administered by the UN. Following Israel’s establishment in May 1948, the western part of Jerusalem came under Israeli control.
  • The eastern portion of Jerusalem, including the Old City and its historic Muslim, Jewish, and Christian holy sites, has been under Israeli military rule since the June 1967 war and is considered occupied Palestinian territory under international law, not legally part of Israel.
  • After it occupied East Jerusalem, Israel massively expanded the municipal boundaries of the city into the West Bank and annexed it in a move that has been repeatedly rejected as illegal by the UN, including numerous Security Council resolutions.
  • Prior to the Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in November 2017, US policy on the city was in line with the international community’s refusal to recognize any country’s sovereignty over any part of the city until a peace agreement is reached.

Israeli Policy in Occupied East Jerusalem

Since militarily occupying East Jerusalem in the 1967 war, Israel has attempted to restrict and reduce the Palestinian population of the city while increasing the growth of its Jewish population, part of a plan to cement control over the entire city. In the words of the US State Department International Religious Freedom Report from 2009: “Many of the national and municipal policies in Jerusalem were designed to limit or diminish the non-Jewish population of Jerusalem.”

This process, which is called “Judaization,” involves:

  • Severely restricting the ability of Palestinians to build or expand homes in East Jerusalem by making it almost impossible for them to obtain construction permits.
  • Destroying Palestinian homes and other structures that are built without permission.
  • Revoking residency rights and social benefits of Palestinians who stay outside the city for seven years or more to study or work, or who are unable to prove that their “center of life” is in Jerusalem. 
  • Systematically discriminating against Palestinian neighborhoods when it comes to municipal planning and in the allocation of services, including education and sanitation.
  • Aggressively encouraging Jewish settlers to move to East Jerusalem in violation of international law, often evicting Palestinians from their homes in the process.
  • Building a wall on occupied Palestinian land in East Jerusalem, which has been deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice, to sever it geographically from Palestinians in the West Bank.

Messianic Jewish Extremists & the Noble Sanctuary Mosque Complex

  • In recent years, messianic Jewish extremism has been growing in Israel. Much of it is focused around building a Jewish temple in the Noble Sanctuary mosque complex in East Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam and one of the most sensitive religious sites in the world.
  • With encouragement and material support from Israel’s government, these dangerous religious fanatics have been developing plans for a new temple and intensifying their provocations in the Noble Sanctuary, threatening to incitement a major religious conflagration in the region and beyond.

Jerusalem: By the Numbers

More than 320,000: Number of Palestinians living in occupied East Jerusalem.

Almost 300,000Number of Jewish settlers living illegally on occupied Palestinian land in East Jerusalem.

Approximately 14,000: Number of Palestinian Jerusalemites who have had their residency rights revoked by Israelsince 1967.

Approximately 5,000: Number of Palestinian homes destroyed by Israel in East Jerusalem since it began its military rule over the city in 1967.

Approximately 17,000 acres: Amount of Palestinian land in the West Bank illegally annexed to East Jerusalem by Israel after it occupied the city in 1967.

35 per cent: Amount of Palestinian land in East Jerusalem that Israel has confiscated for the use of illegal Jewish settlements.

13 per cent: The amount of East Jerusalem land that Israel has zoned for Palestinian construction, much of which is already built-up.

Approximately 4 million: The number of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza who are not allowed to enter Jerusalem without difficult to obtain permission from Israel’s occupying army. 

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