Thursday, 25 May 2017

ISRAEL: Jerusalem, Who Owns It?

While the international community regards East Jerusalem, including the entire Old City, as part of the occupied Palestinian territories, neither part, West or East Jerusalem, is recognized as part of the territory of Israel or the State of Palestine.

Under the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1947, Jerusalem was envisaged to become a corpus separatum administered by the United Nations.

In the war of 1948, the western part of the city was occupied by forces of the nascent state of Israel, while the eastern part was occupied by Jordan. The international community largely considers the legal status of Jerusalem to derive from the partition plan, and correspondingly refuses to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the city.

Following the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel extended its jurisdiction and administration over East Jerusalem, establishing new municipal borders.

In 2010, Israel approved legislation giving Jerusalem the highest national priority status in Israel. The law prioritized construction throughout the city, and offered grants and tax benefits to residents to make housing, infrastructure, education, employment, business, tourism, and cultural events more affordable.

Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon said that the bill sent "a clear, unequivocal political message that Jerusalem will not be divided", and that "all those within the Palestinian and international community who expect the current Israeli government to accept any demands regarding Israel's sovereignty over its capital are mistaken and misleading".

The status of the city, and especially its holy places, remains a core issue in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. The Israeli government has approved building plans in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City in order to expand the Jewish presence in East Jerusalem, while some Islamic leaders have made claims that Jews have no historical connection to Jerusalem, alleging that the 2,500-year-old Western Wall was constructed as part of a mosque.

Palestinians regard Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine, and the city's borders have been the subject of bilateral talks. A team of experts assembled by the then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in 2000 concluded that the city must be divided, since Israel had failed to achieve any of its national aims there.

However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in 2014 that "Jerusalem will never be divided". A poll conducted in June 2013 found that 74% of Israeli Jews reject the idea of a Palestinian capital in any portion of Jerusalem, though 72% of the public regarded it as a divided city.

A poll conducted by Palestinian Center for Public Opinion and American Pechter Middle East Polls for the Council on Foreign Relations, among East Jerusalem Arab residents in 2011 revealed that 39% of East Jerusalem Arab residents would prefer Israeli citizenship contrary to 31% who opted for Palestinian citizenship. According to the poll, 40% of Palestinian residents would prefer to leave their neighborhoods if they would be placed under Palestinian rule.

Capital of Israel

On 5 December 1949, Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, proclaimed Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and since then all branches of the Israeli government—legislative, judicial, and executive—have resided there, except for the Ministry of Defense, which is located at HaKirya in Tel Aviv. At the time of the proclamation, Jerusalem was divided between Israel and Jordan and thus only West Jerusalem was proclaimed Israel's capital.

In July 1980, Israel passed the Jerusalem Law as Basic Law. The law declared Jerusalem the "complete and united" capital of Israel. The "Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel" is a major reason for the international community not to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 478 on 20 August 1980, which declared that the Basic Law is "a violation of international law", is "null and void and must be rescinded forthwith". Member states were called upon to withdraw their diplomatic representation from Jerusalem.

Following the resolution, 22 of the 24 countries that previously had their embassy in (West) Jerusalem relocated them in Tel Aviv, where many embassies already resided prior to Resolution 478. Costa Rica and El Salvador followed in 2006.Currently, there are no embassies located within the city limits of Jerusalem, although there are four consulates in the city.

In 1995, the United States Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which required, subject to conditions, that its embassy be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.However, U.S. presidents have argued that Congressional resolutions regarding the status of Jerusalem are merely advisory.

The Constitution reserves foreign relations as an executive power, and as such, the United States embassy is still in Tel Aviv.Due to the non-recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, some non-Israeli press use Tel Aviv as a metonym for Israel.In April 2017, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced it viewed Western Jerusalem as Israel's capital in the context of UN-approved principles which include the status of East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state.

Capital of Palestine

The Palestinian National Authority views East Jerusalem as occupied territory according to United Nations Security Council Resolution 242. The Palestinian Authority claims Jerusalem, including the Haram al-Sharif, as the capital of the State of Palestine,The PLO claims that West Jerusalem is also subject to permanent status negotiations. However, it has stated that it would be willing to consider alternative solutions, such as making Jerusalem an open city.

The PLO's current position is that East Jerusalem, as defined by the pre-1967 municipal boundaries, shall be the capital of Palestine and West Jerusalem the capital of Israel, with each state enjoying full sovereignty over its respective part of the city and with its own municipality. A joint development council would be responsible for coordinated development.

Some states, such as Russia and China, recognize the Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. United Nations General Assembly Resolution 58/292 affirmed that the Palestinian people have the right to sovereignty over East Jerusalem

Many national institutions of Israel are located in Kiryat HaMemshala in Givat Ram in Jerusalem as a part of the Kiryat HaLeom project which is intended to create a large district that will house most government agencies and national cultural institutions.

Some government buildings are located in Kiryat Menachem Begin. The city is home to the Knesset,the Supreme Court,the Bank of Israel, the National Headquarters of the Israel Police, the official residences of the President and Prime Minister, the Cabinet, and all ministries except for the Ministry of Defense,which is located in central Tel Aviv's HaKirya district and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development,which is located in the Tel Aviv suburb of Rishon LeZion, nearby Beit Dagan).

Prior to the creation of the State of Israel, Jerusalem served as the administrative capital of Mandatory Palestine, which included present-day Israel and Jordan.From 1949 until 1967, West Jerusalem served as Israel's capital, but was not recognized as such internationally because UN General Assembly Resolution 194 envisaged Jerusalem as an international city.

As a result of the Six-Day War in 1967, the whole of Jerusalem came under Israeli control. On 27 June 1967, the government of Levi Eshkol extended Israeli law and jurisdiction to East Jerusalem, but agreed that administration of the Temple Mount compound would be maintained by the Jordanian waqf, under the Jordanian Ministry of Religious Endowments.

In 1988, Israel ordered the closure of Orient House, home of the Arab Studies Society, but also the headquarters of the Palestine Liberation Organization, for security reasons. The building reopened in 1992 as a Palestinian guesthouse. The Oslo Accords stated that the final status of Jerusalem would be determined by negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.

The accords banned any official Palestinian presence in the city until a final peace agreement, but provided for the opening of a Palestinian trade office in East Jerusalem. The Palestinian Authority regards East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

President Mahmoud Abbas has said that any agreement that did not include East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine would be unacceptable.Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has similarly stated that Jerusalem would remain the undivided capital of Israel.

Due to its proximity to the city, especially the Temple Mount, Abu Dis, a Palestinian suburb of Jerusalem, has been proposed as the future capital of a Palestinian state by Israel.

Israel has not incorporated Abu Dis within its security wall around Jerusalem. The Palestinian Authority has built a possible future parliament building for the Palestinian Legislative Council in the town, and its Jerusalem Affairs Offices are all located in Abu Dis.

Jerusalem is situated on the southern spur of a plateau in the Judaean Mountains, which include the Mount of Olives (East) and Mount Scopus (North East). The elevation of the Old City is approximately 760 m (2,490 ft).The whole of Jerusalem is surrounded by valleys and dry riverbeds (wadis). The Kidron, Hinnom, and Tyropoeon Valleys intersect in an area just south of the Old City of Jerusalem.

The Kidron Valley runs to the east of the Old City and separates the Mount of Olives from the city proper. Along the southern side of old Jerusalem is the Valley of Hinnom, a steep ravine associated in biblical eschatology with the concept of Gehenna or Hell.

The Tyropoeon Valley commenced in the northwest near the Damascus Gate, ran south-southeasterly through the center of the Old City down to the Pool of Siloam, and divided the lower part into two hills, the Temple Mount to the east, and the rest of the city to the west,the lower and the upper cities described by Josephus. Today, this valley is hidden by debris that has accumulated over the centuries.

In biblical times, Jerusalem was surrounded by forests of almond, olive and pine trees. Over centuries of warfare and neglect, these forests were destroyed. Farmers in the Jerusalem region thus built stone terraces along the slopes to hold back the soil, a feature still very much in evidence in the Jerusalem landscape.

Water supply has always been a major problem in Jerusalem, as attested to by the intricate network of ancient aqueducts, tunnels, pools and cisterns found in the city.

Jerusalem is 60 kilometers (37 mi)east of Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean Sea. On the opposite side of the city, approximately 35 kilometers (22 mi)away, is the Dead Sea, the lowest body of water on Earth. Neighboring cities and towns include Bethlehem and Beit Jala to the south, Abu Dis and Ma'ale Adumim to the east, Mevaseret Zion to the west, and Ramallah and Giv'at Ze'ev to the north.

Mount Herzl, at the western side of the city near the Jerusalem Forest, serves as the national cemetery of Israel.

In December 2007, Jerusalem had a population of 747,600—64% were Jewish, 32% Muslim, and 2% Christian.At the end of 2005, the population density was 5,750.4/km2 (14,893/sq mi).According to a study published in 2000, the percentage of Jews in the city's population had been decreasing; this was attributed to a higher Muslim birth rate, and Jewish residents leaving.

The study also found that about nine percent of the Old City's 32,488 people were Jews.Of the Jewish population, 200,000 live in East Jerusalem settlements which are considered illegal under international law.

In 2005, 2,850 new immigrants settled in Jerusalem, mostly from the United States, France and the former Soviet Union. In terms of the local population, the number of outgoing residents exceeds the number of incoming residents. In 2005, 16,000 left Jerusalem and only 10,000 moved in.

Nevertheless, the population of Jerusalem continues to rise due to the high birth rate, especially in the Haredi Jewish and Arab communities. Consequently, the total fertility rate in Jerusalem (4.02) is higher than in Tel Aviv (1.98) and well above the national average of 2.90. The average size of Jerusalem's 180,000 households is 3.8 people.

In 2005, the total population grew by 13,000 (1.8%)—similar to the Israeli national average, but the religious and ethnic composition is shifting. While 31% of the Jewish population is made up of children below the age fifteen, the figure for the Arab population is 42%.

This would seem to corroborate the observation that the percentage of Jews in Jerusalem has declined over the past four decades. In 1967, Jews accounted for 74 percent of the population, while the figure for 2006 is down nine percent. Possible factors are the high cost of housing, fewer job opportunities and the increasingly religious character of the city, although proportionally, young Haredim are leaving in higher numbers.

The percentage of secular Jews, or those who 'wear their faith lightly' is dropping, with some 20,000 leaving the city over the past seven years (2012). They now number 31% of the population, the same percentage as the rising ultra-orthodox population.Many move to the suburbs and coastal cities in search of cheaper housing and a more secular lifestyle.

In 2009, the percentage of Haredim in the city was increasing. As of 2009, out of 150,100 school children, 59,900 or 40% are in state-run secular and National Religious schools, while 90,200 or 60% are in Haredi schools. This correlates with the high number of children in Haredi families.

While some Israelis avoid Jerusalem for its relative lack of development and religious and political tensions, the city has attracted Palestinians, offering more jobs and opportunity than any city in the West Bank or Gaza Strip. Palestinian officials have encouraged Arabs over the years to stay in the city to maintain their claim.

Palestinians are attracted to the access to jobs, healthcare, social security, other benefits, and quality of life Israel provides to Jerusalem residents.

Arab residents of Jerusalem who choose not to have Israeli citizenship are granted an Israeli identity card that allows them to pass through checkpoints with relative ease and to travel throughout Israel, making it easier to find work. Residents also are entitled to the subsidized healthcare and social security benefits Israel provides its citizens, and have the right to vote in municipal elections.

Arabs in Jerusalem can send their children to Israeli-run schools, although not every neighborhood has one, and universities. Israeli doctors and highly regarded hospitals such as Hadassah Medical Center are available to residents.

Demographics and the Jewish-Arab population divide play a major role in the dispute over Jerusalem. In 1998, the Jerusalem Development Authority proposed expanding city limits to the west to include more areas heavily populated with Jews.

Within the past few years, there has been a steady increase in the Jewish birthrate and a steady decrease in the Arab birthrate.

In May 2012, it was reported that the Jewish birthrate had overtaken the Arab birthrate. Currently, the city's birthrate stands about 4.2 children per Jewish family and 3.9 children per Arab family.In addition, increasing numbers of Jewish immigrants chose to settle in Jerusalem. In the last few years, thousands of Palestinians have moved to previously fully Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, built after the 1967 Six-Day War.

In 2007, 1,300 Palestinians lived in the previously exclusively Jewish neighborhood of Pisgat Ze'ev and constituted three percent of the population in Neve Ya'akov. In the French Hill neighborhood, Palestinians today constitute one-sixth of the overall population.

At the end of 2008, the population of East Jerusalem was 456,300, comprising 60% of Jerusalem's residents. Of these, 195,500 (43%) are Jews, (comprising 40% of the Jewish population of Jerusalem as a whole), 260,800 (57%) are Muslim (comprising 98% of the Muslim population of Jerusalem).In 2008, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics reported the number of Palestinians living in East Jerusalem was 208,000 according to a recently completed census.

Jerusalem's Jewish population is overwhelmingly religious. Only 21% of Jewish residents are secular. In addition, Haredi Jews comprise 30% of the city's adult Jewish population. In a phenomenon seen rarely around the world, the percentage of Jewish men who work, 47%, is exceeded by the percentage of Jewish women who work, 50%.

The young and less religious continue to leave according to a 2016 Central Bureau of Statistics report which noted 6,740 people left. The opening of high speed rail transit to Tel Aviv next year and the New Jerusalem Gateway Business District currently under construction is designed to alter business, tourism, and hopefully reverse the population exodus.

Jerusalem had a population of 801,000 in 2011, of which Jews comprised 497,000 (62%), Muslims 281,000 (35%), Christians 14,000 (around 2%) and 9,000 (1%) were not classified by religion.

Critics of efforts to promote a Jewish majority in Jerusalem say that government planning policies are motivated by demographic considerations and seek to limit Arab construction while promoting Jewish construction.According to a World Bank report, the number of recorded building violations between 1996 and 2000 was four and half times higher in Jewish neighborhoods but four times fewer demolition orders were issued in West Jerusalem than in East Jerusalem.

Arabs in Jerusalem were less likely to receive construction permits than Jews, and the authorities are much more likely to take action against Palestinian violators than Jewish violators of the permit process. In recent years, private Jewish foundations have received permission from the government to develop projects on disputed lands, such as the City of David archaeological park in the 60% Arab neighborhood of Silwan (adjacent to the Old City), and the Museum of Tolerance on Mamilla Cemetery adjacent to Zion Square.

Jerusalem has been sacred to Judaism for roughly 3000 years, to Christianity for around 2000 years, and to Islam for approximately 1400 years. The 2000 Statistical Yearbook of Jerusalem lists 1204 synagogues, 158 churches, and 73 mosques within the city.Despite efforts to maintain peaceful religious coexistence, some sites, such as the Temple Mount, have been a continuous source of friction and controversy.

Jerusalem has been sacred to the Jews since King David proclaimed it his capital in the 10th century BCE. Jerusalem was the site of Solomon's Temple and the Second Temple.Although not mentioned in the Torah / Pentateuch, it is mentioned in the Bible 632 times. Today, the Western Wall, a remnant of the wall surrounding the Second Temple, is a Jewish holy site second only to the "Holy of Holies" on the Temple Mount itself.

Synagogues around the world are traditionally built with the Holy Ark facing Jerusalem, and Arks within Jerusalem face the Holy of Holies. As prescribed in the Mishna and codified in the Shulchan Aruch, daily prayers are recited while facing towards Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. Many Jews have "Mizrach" plaques hung on a wall of their homes to indicate the direction of prayer.

Christianity reveres Jerusalem for its Old Testament history, and also for its significance in the life of Jesus. According to the New Testament, Jesus was brought to Jerusalem soon after his birth and later in his life cleansed the Second Temple. The Cenacle, believed to be the site of Jesus' Last Supper, is located on Mount Zion in the same building that houses the Tomb of King David.

Another prominent Christian site in Jerusalem is Golgotha, the site of the crucifixion. The Gospel of John describes it as being located outside Jerusalem, but recent archaeological evidence suggests Golgotha is a short distance from the Old City walls, within the present-day confines of the city. The land currently occupied by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is considered one of the top candidates for Golgotha and thus has been a Christian pilgrimage site for the past 2000 years.

Jerusalem is the third-holiest city in Sunni Islam.For approximately a year, before it was permanently switched to the Kaaba in Mecca, the qibla (direction of prayer) for Muslims was Jerusalem.

The city's lasting place in Islam, however, is primarily due to Muhammad's Night of Ascension (c. CE 620). Muslims believe Muhammad was miraculously transported one night from Mecca to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, whereupon he ascended to Heaven to meet previous prophets of Islam.

The first verse in the Qur'an's Surat al-Isra notes the destination of Muhammad's journey as al-Aqsa,the farthest mosque,in reference to the location in Jerusalem. The hadith, the recorded sayings of the Prophet Mohammad, name Jerusalem as the location of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The al-Aqsa Mosque, derived from the name mentioned in the Qur'an, was built on the Temple Mount under the Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid to commemorate the place from which Muslims believe Muhammad ascended to Heaven.

Although Jerusalem is known primarily for its religious significance, the city is also home to many artistic and cultural venues. The Israel Museum attracts nearly one million visitors a year, approximately one-third of them tourists.The 20-acre (81,000 m2) museum complex comprises several buildings featuring special exhibits and extensive collections of Judaica, archaeological findings, and Israeli and European art.

The Dead Sea scrolls, discovered in the mid-20th century in the Qumran Caves near the Dead Sea, are housed in the Museum's Shrine of the Book.

Next to the Israel Museum is the Bible Lands Museum, near The National Campus for the Archaeology of Israel, which includes the Israel Antiquities Authority offices. A World Bible Center is planned to be built adjacent to Mount Zion at a site called the "Bible Hill". A planned World Kabbalah Center is to be located on the nearby promenade, overlooking the Old City.

The Youth Wing, which mounts changing exhibits and runs an extensive art education program, is visited by 100,000 children a year. The museum has a large outdoor sculpture garden and a scale-model of the Second Temple.The Rockefeller Museum, located in East Jerusalem, was the first archaeological museum in the Middle East. It was built in 1938 during the British Mandate.

The national cemetery of Israel is located at the city's western edge, near the Jerusalem Forest on Mount Herzl. The western extension of Mount Herzl is the Mount of Remembrance, where the main Holocaust museum of Israel is located.

Yad Vashem, Israel's national memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, houses the world's largest library of Holocaust-related information.It houses an estimated 100,000 books and articles. The complex contains a state-of-the-art museum that explores the genocide of the Jews through exhibits that focus on the personal stories of individuals and families killed in the Holocaust.

An art gallery featuring the work of artists who perished is also present. Further, Yad Vashem commemorates the 1.5 million Jewish children murdered by the Nazis, and honors the Righteous among the Nations

The Museum on the Seam, which explores issues of coexistence through art, is situated on the road dividing eastern and western Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, established in the 1940s, has appeared around the world.The International Convention Center (Binyanei HaUma) near the entrance to city houses the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. The Jerusalem Cinemateque, the Gerard Behar Center (formerly Beit Ha'Am) in downtown Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Music Center in Yemin Moshe, and the Targ Music Center in Ein Kerem also present the arts.

The Israel Festival, featuring indoor and outdoor performances by local and international singers, concerts, plays, and street theater has been held annually since 1961, and Jerusalem has been the major organizer of this event. The Jerusalem Theater in the Talbiya neighborhood hosts over 150 concerts a year, as well as theater and dance companies and performing artists from overseas.

The Khan Theater, located in a caravanserai opposite the old Jerusalem train station, is the city's only repertoire theater. The station itself has become a venue for cultural events in recent years as the site of Shav'ua Hasefer (an annual week-long book fair) and outdoor music performances.The Jerusalem Film Festival is held annually, screening Israeli and international films.

The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo has ranked consistently as Israel's top tourist attraction for Israelis.

The Ticho House in downtown Jerusalem houses the paintings of Anna Ticho and the Judaica collections of her husband, an ophthalmologist who opened Jerusalem's first eye clinic in this building in 1912. Al-Hoash, established in 2004, is a gallery for the preservation of Palestinian art.

In 1974 the Jerusalem Cinematheque was founded. In 1981 it was moved to a new building on Hebron Road near the Valley of Hinnom and the Old City.

Jerusalem was declared the Capital of Arab Culture in 2009.Jerusalem is home to the Palestinian National Theatre, which engages in cultural preservation as well as innovation, working to rekindle Palestinian interest in the arts.The Edward Said National Conservatory of Music sponsors the Palestine Youth Orchestra which toured Arab states of the Persian Gulf and other Middle East countries in 2009.

The Islamic Museum on the Temple Mount, established in 1923, houses many Islamic artifacts, from tiny kohl flasks and rare manuscripts to giant marble columns.While Israel approves and financially supports some Arab cultural activities,Arab Capital of Culture events were banned because they were sponsored by the Palestine National Authority.In 2009, a four-day culture festival was held in the Beit 'Anan suburb of Jerusalem, attended by more than 15,000 people.

The Abraham Fund and the Jerusalem Intercultural Center] (JICC) promote joint Jewish-Palestinian cultural projects. The Jerusalem Center for Middle Eastern Music and Dance is open to Arabs and Jews and offers workshops on Jewish-Arab dialogue through the arts. The Jewish-Arab Youth Orchestra performs both European classical and Middle Eastern music.

In 2006, a 38 km (24 mi) Jerusalem Trail was opened, a hiking trail that goes to many cultural sites and national parks in and around Jerusalem.

In 2008, the Tolerance Monument, an outdoor sculpture by Czesław Dzwigaj, was erected on a hill between Jewish Armon HaNetziv and Arab Jebl Mukaber as a symbol of Jerusalem's quest for peace.

Jerusalem has traditionally had a low-rise skyline. About 18 tall buildings were built at different times in the downtown area when there was no clear policy over the matter. One of them, Holyland Tower 1, Jerusalem's tallest building, is a skyscraper by international standards, rising 32 stories. Holyland Tower 2, which has been approved for construction, will reach the same height.

A new master plan for the city will see many high-rise buildings, including skyscrapers, built in certain, designated areas of downtown Jerusalem. Under the plan, towers will line Jaffa Road and King George Street. One of the proposed towers along King George Street, the Migdal Merkaz HaYekum, is planned as a 65-story building, which would make it one of the tallest buildings in Israel.

At the entrance to the city, near the Jerusalem Chords Bridge and the Central Bus Station, twelve towers rising between 24 and 33 stories will be built, as part of a complex that will also include an open square and an underground train station serving a new express line between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and will be connected by bridges and underground tunnels. Eleven of the skyscrapers will be either office or apartment buildings, and one will be a 2,000-room hotel.

The complex is expected to attract many businesses from Tel Aviv, and become the city's main business hub. In addition, a complex for the city's courts and the prosecutor's office will be built, as well as new buildings for Central Zionist Archives and Israel State Archives.

The skyscrapers built throughout the city are expected to contain public space, shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues, and it has been speculated that this may lead to a revitalization of downtown Jerusalem.In August 2015, the city council approved construction of a 344-foot pyramid-shaped skyscraper designed by Daniel Libeskind and Yigal Levi, in place of a rejected previous design by Libeskind; it is set to break ground by 2019.