For centuries, Jerusalem has been the political,
administrative and spiritual heart of Palestine. Metropolitan East Jerusalem –
an area extending from Ramallah to Bethlehem – has for long been the driving
force of our economy. In fact, nearly one-third of our economic activity is
centered around East Jerusalem. Given East Jerusalem’s economic, cultural,
social and religious importance, without East Jerusalem, there can be no viable
Though central to three faiths, Israel has since 1967
systematically pursued policies aimed at ensuring exclusive control over the
city with disregard to the rights of the indigenous Christian and Muslim
Palestinian populations. In so doing, Israel unilaterally is taking control of
East Jerusalem, the future capital of our state, thereby putting at risk the
possibility of a two-state solution.
Modern History of the Holy City: A Brief Overview
When the UN General Assembly recommended in 1947 to
partition Palestine, Jerusalem and its environs (including the city of
Bethlehem to the south) were to be administered internationally as a separate
entity, or corpus separatum. However, during the 1948 war, Israel invaded the
corpus separatum and occupied 85 percent of its territory.
In June 1967, Israel occupied the remainder of Jerusalem, or
“East Jerusalem”, including the Old City. Only weeks later, Israel unilaterally
expanded the municipal borders of Jerusalem, enlarging East Jerusalem ten-fold.
The new borders were drawn to incorporate undeveloped Palestinian lands and
excluded our population centers. During the 1970s, those undeveloped lands were
illegally confiscated by Israel to build Israeli settlements, in violation of
With the expansion of Jerusalem’s borders, Israel applied
its laws, administration and jurisdiction over the expanded area of municipal
Jerusalem (an area then covering 72 km2 or 1.3 percent of the West Bank) in a
clear attempt to de facto annex East Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank. This
annexation violated the prohibition against acquiring territory by force and
was declared of “no legal validity” by the UN Security Council.
Since 1967, the Israeli government has attempted to
consolidate its control over Jerusalem by systematically pursuing a number of
Israel has unilaterally annexed occupied East Jerusalem and
has been constructing illegal settlements within and along its illegally
expanded borders. These settlements now form a ring around the entire occupied
part of the city, sealing it off from the rest of the West Bank. Today, over
190,000 of the over 500,000 settlers in the oPt live in occupied East
Revoking Residency Rights and Denying Family
Israel’s goal with
respect to its policies in occupied East Jerusalem has been clearly and
repeatedly stated to be the preservation of a Jewish demographic majority in
Jerusalem. This goal was officially stated in a 1973 report by the
inter-ministerial Committee to Examine the Rate of Development for Jerusalem.
In this report the recommendation was made that the “demographic balance of
Jews and Arabs must be maintained as it was at the end of 1972.” In an attempt
to maintain this “demographic balance,” Israel has prohibited thousands of
Palestinians from residing in the city of our birth by revoking our residency
As “Permanent Residents” of Israel, Palestinian East
Jerusalemites have disproportionate rights compared with Israeli citizens of
the city. For example, Israel has the power to strip them of their residency
solely at its discretion. Therefore, our residents of occupied East Jerusalem
must maintain their “center of life” in East Jerusalem; otherwise they run the
risk of losing their residency status. In addition to residency revocation,
Israel habitually refuses to grant Palestinian spouses of non-Jerusalemites
residency status, thereby preventing them from residing in Jerusalem and
denying family unification.
More than 13,000 Palestinian “permanent resident”
identification cards were revoked between 1967 and 2008, directly impacting
more than 20 percent of our families in occupied East Jerusalem. Between 2006
and 2008, Israel revoked 4,577 Palestinian “permanent resident” identification
Land Confiscation, Building Restrictions and Home
In addition to preventing our urban growth by confiscating
our lands and constructing settlements, Israel has adopted a series of
discriminatory zoning policies intended to make it difficult for us to build on
our land or to expand existing structures. As a result, we are only allowed to
build and live on 13 percent of East Jerusalem. Further, permits to build
within those areas are expensive and nearly impossible to obtain due to Israel’s
restrictive and discriminatory measures and policies, thereby giving the
Israeli government the ability to demolish homes where building, including
expansion, was carried out without an Israeli permit.
These discriminatory policies have also resulted in severe
over-crowding in East Jerusalem, a situation which will only worsen as the
population naturally expands. From 1967 until today, the Palestinian population
of Israeli-defined municipal Jerusalem has grown from 68,600 to 300,000—an
increase of 228 percent. By 2020, the number of Palestinians who hold Jerusalem
residency cards is projected to be over 400,000 (based on a 3.4 percent average
population growth rate).
Estimates also indicate that since 1967, Israel has
demolished more than 3,200 homes and other structures in East Jerusalem,
including several historic and religious sites, such as the historic Moroccan
Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem. According to the Palestinian Central
Bureau of Statistics, Israeli authorities demolished 94 Palestinian homes in
2005, 83 in 2006, 78 in 2007, 87 in 2008 and 103 in 2009. In 2010, figures
released by the UN’s displacement Working Group, 78 privately owned structures
were demolished in East Jerusalem, including homes.
Since March 1993, Israel has prohibited non-Jerusalemite
Palestinians from entering the city unless they obtain an Israeli-issued
permit, which is rarely granted. As such, over 4 million Palestinians are
denied access to our holy places in Jerusalem, are prohibited from studying in
East Jerusalem and are denied certain medical treatments that are only
available in East Jerusalem hospitals.
Constructing the Wall:
The route of the Wall in and around occupied East Jerusalem
splits the West Bank into two distinct areas and completely isolates occupied
East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.
It also limits the last available space for much needed
Palestinian growth, while facilitating the construction and expansion of
settlements. Furthermore, the Wall severs the national transportation axis that
connects the West Bank with Jerusalem and has resulted in an influx of
Palestinian Jerusalemites to the center of the city.
Key Facts International Law Our Position
In conformity with international law and as stated in the
Declaration of Principles, all of Jerusalem (and not only East Jerusalem) is
subject to permanent status negotiations. With respect to East Jerusalem,
because it remains part of the territory occupied since 1967, Israel has no
right to any part of it.
As the political, economic and spiritual heart of our
nation, there can be no Palestinian state without East Jerusalem, in particular
the Old City and the surrounding area, as its capital. We are committed to
respecting freedom of worship at, and access to, religious sites within East
Jerusalem for everyone. All possible measures will be taken to protect such
sites and preserve their dignity.
Beyond ensuring our sovereignty over East Jerusalem, we will
consider a number of solutions, as long as they are in our interest and in line
with international law. For example, Jerusalem may be an open city for both
Palestinians and Israelis-the capital of two nations. Whatever the specific
solution, East Jerusalem is essential to the economic, political and cultural
viability of our future state. There can be no integrated Palestinian national
economy and, thus no sustainable resolution of the conflict, without a
negotiated solution on Jerusalem that guarantees our rights.