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U.S. shuts door on the 1947 UN Partition Resolution calling for internationalization of Jerusalem

The United States is effectively saying that there will be no future negotiations over west Jerusalem, but this is not the case with regard to the east.

Municipal workers hang a road sign directing to the new U.S. embassy near the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem on May 7, 2018. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Municipal workers hang a road sign directing to the new U.S. embassy near the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem on May 7, 2018. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Nadav Shragai
Nadav Shragai
Nadav Shragai is a veteran Israeli journalist.

The United States has hammered another nail into the “coffin” of the 1947 U.N. Partition Resolution that called for the internationalization of Jerusalem.

The Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia, the Philippines, Guatemala, Honduras, Bolivia and various other countries are considering to follow in the footsteps of the United States.

The Christian evangelical sector of American voters was what finally clinched Trump’s resolve to transfer the embassy from Tel Aviv and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The “price” Israel will pay appears to be continued restraint in construction and an occasional building freeze in Jerusalem.

The embassy will open in west Jerusalem, with an “overflow” to the 1967 seamline, which used to be no-mans land.

The United States is effectively saying that there will be no future negotiations over west Jerusalem, but this is not the case with regard to the east.

Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan will not be rushing to demonstrate against this move. The Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Turkey, however, will attempt to provoke protests.The most likely potential for conflagration is on the Temple Mount. Israeli security forces will attempt to prevent any outbreaks of violence.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s birthday gift to the State of Israel on its 70th Independence Day—the transfer of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem—is another nail in the coffin in which Trump’s America placed U.N. Partition Resolution 181 of Nov. 29, 1947, which called for the internationalization of Jerusalem. This metaphorical coffin is the consequence of U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on Dec. 6, 2017. Now, it would seem, it is being laid to rest in its grave. This is the political significance of the U.S. recognition of Israel of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the transfer of its embassy to the city.

At the same time, to put matters into proportion, it is worthwhile stating: Contrary to the lamentations and threats of war on the Palestinian side, but also in contrast to the fanfare and sense of victory on the Israeli side, this is neither cause for another Nakba for the Palestinians nor a second Nov. 29, 1947 celebration for Israel. The embassy transfer is primarily a snapshot of the situation and de jure recognition of what already exists de facto: Jerusalem, and definitely its western part, where the United States is now putting its embassy, is the capital of Israel.

The United States, as opposed to most other countries in the world, recognizes this reality and has given it recognition and its seal of approval. Does this mean that the concept of the internationalization of Jerusalem will never be tossed back into the state arena in the future? No. Does it mean that a specific internationalization formula regarding the holy sites and the Old City will never be raised again at some time in the future? Even the answer to this question is negative.

Enough players, aside from the United States, in the international arena are still toying with this idea. At the same time, the fact that a power like the United States has effectively erased the internationalization option with regard to the entire area of Jerusalem is very significant.

What does this American move contain, and what does it lack? What does it change, and what does it not change? And what are its ramifications?

Internationalization has become irrelevant

First and foremost, Trump has removed the internationalization formula, which the United States has not officially withdrawn from since Nov. 29, 1947. On that day, the U.N. General Assembly accepted Resolution 181 for the partition of the Land of Israel between the Jews and the Arabs. In the partition resolution, it is written among other things that “the city of Jerusalem will be established as a separate body under a special international government and will be governed by the United Nations.”

The city of Bethlehem is also included within the boundaries of Jerusalem determined by the United Nations at that time. The internationalization of the city was expected to last for 10 years, but it never happened. As a result of the War of Independence and the division of Jerusalem between Israel and Jordan, it became impracticable.

Until the Trump “recognition speech,” the United Nations had avoided withdrawing from the internationalization resolution officially, even though the main emphasis of its policy was to assert time after time that the final status of Jerusalem would be determined through negotiations between both sides. Now that Trump has recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and is transferring the U.S. embassy there, internationalization—at least from the point of view of the current U.S. administration—has become an irrelevant piece of history.

Here is another interesting historical insight about the internationalization resolution of 1947: Contrary to its perception, the internationalization resolution did not reduce the city limits of Jerusalem, but actually extended them. The appendix to Resolution 181 defined the city limits of internationalized Jerusalem as extending from Abu Dis and al-Azariya in the east to Ein Karem and Motza in the west, and from Shuafat in the north to Bethlehem and Beit Jala in the south.

The international map drew such broad boundaries for Jerusalem in an attempt to satisfy the interests of both the Christians and the Arabs. The Christians did not only want control of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, but also of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The Arabs feared the Jewish majority within the current limited municipal boundaries, and they, therefore, requested to extend them to introduce an Arab majority that would even affect the results of a referendum that was under discussion as a possibility at the time.

Who will follow the United States?

An additional ramification of the American step relates to the possibility that other countries will follow in the footsteps of the United States. The Israeli Foreign Ministry reports that more than 10 countries have made contact with regard to transferring their embassies to Jerusalem.

This matter has been mentioned openly by three people: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely and Knesset Chairman Yuli Edelstein. All three of them have reported in recent months that other countries have made approaches, expressing a desire to transfer their embassies to Jerusalem. They expect that following the actions of the United States, other countries will do the same. So far, here are the countries that are considering transferring their embassies to Jerusalem:

The Czech Republic: The day after Trump’s speech giving recognition to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the Czech Republic also recognized Jerusalem as our capital. However, it clarified that this recognition was only with regard to western Jerusalem, and if an agreement were reached to establish a Palestinian state, the eastern part of the city would have to become its capital. The Czech Republic also abstained from a vote at the U.N. General Assembly on Dec. 21, 2017, on a resolution that “nullified” President Trump’s announcement about Jerusalem. Czech President Milos Zeman recently declared at a reception in honor of the 70th Independence Day of the State of Israel that the transfer of the Czech embassy would take place in three stages: Firstly, an honorary consulate would open, and then the Czech investment center and other departments currently housed in the embassy in Tel Aviv would be moved to Jerusalem. The embassy would only officially open in Jerusalem at the final stage. However, Zeman did not give this process a timetable.

Romania: The Romanian government accepted a theoretical resolution to begin the process of moving its embassy to Jerusalem. However, it has not mentioned a timetable or the stages of putting this resolution into action. In Romania, there are sharp differences of opinion about taking this step. Prime Minister Viorica Dancila and the chairman of the Romanian Parliament, Liviu Dragnea, support the transfer of the Romanian embassy to Jerusalem. Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, however, is opposed to the process. Iohannis attacked the expected move very strongly, accusing the prime minister of “making a deal with the Jews,” and claimed that this action contravenes the position of the European Union and international law. “Who knows what other secret deals Dancila has been making with the Jews?” the Romanian president asked in a statement with anti-Semitic overtones that was widely condemned by Jewish organizations in Europe. Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely has been working on this matter directly with the Romanian foreign minister and other figures in Romania to push through the transfer of the embassy to Jerusalem. On the other hand, the Palestinians have also been working hard on this issue in Romania, and they are trying very hard to prevent the embassy transfer.

The Philippines: President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines has informed Israel that he is interested in transferring the Philippines embassy to the capital city.

Guatemala: President Jimmy Morales of Guatemala announced several months ago that his country intended to follow in the wake of the United States and transfer its embassy to Jerusalem. At the most recent AIPAC conference, Morales stated that his country would be the second, after the United States, to transfer its embassy to Jerusalem, two days later on May 16. Guatemala’s embassy was in Jerusalem until 1980 when, following the Jerusalem Law, it was one of 13 countries that moved their embassies out of the capital.

Guatemala’s flag was raised at its new embassy location in Jerusalem

Guatemala’s flag was raised at its new embassy location in Jerusalem on May 1. (Capture/YouTube)

Honduras: Israel has many military and commercial connections with this Central American country, and it is expected to be on the list. Just before Yom Ha’atzmaut in 2018, President Juan Orlando Hernández canceled his participation in a torch-lighting ceremony on Mount Herzl, but to date, it is assumed that transferring the Honduran embassy to Jerusalem is still on the president’s agenda.

Paraguay: The Paraguayan embassy is currently in Mevaseret Tzion, a suburb of Jerusalem, but it is expected that it will also move to Jerusalem. President Horacio Cartes of Paraguay has announced that before he steps down from his position in June, he will transfer the embassy to Jerusalem.

Bolivia: The Bolivian embassy is also in Mevaseret Tzion, and it may also move to Jerusalem.

Slovakia: The chairman of the Slovakian Parliament told the chairman of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein that he supports the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the transfer of the Slovakian embassy to Jerusalem. However, the Slovakian Foreign Minister announced, after this was reported, that the government of Slovakia has no intention of doing so, and its position is that the city should serve as the capital of two states: Israel and Palestine.

The evangelical Christian sector

Pressure applied by Christian evangelical organizations played a significant, if not decisive, role in Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel and to transfer the U.S. embassy to the city. A key personality in this episode is Vice President Mike Pence, who has described himself more than once as a “Christian, Conservative and Republican, in that order.” Pence is affiliated with the evangelical church. The closeness that Pence feels toward Israel and his decisive influence were seen during a speech that he gave before the Knesset in January 2018. Pence said the following:

“The songs and stories of the people of Israel were their anthems, and they faithfully taught them to their children, and do to this day.  And our founders, as others have said, turned to the wisdom of the Hebrew Bible for direction, guidance, and inspiration. …. And down through the generations, the American people became fierce advocates of the Jewish people’s aspiration to return to the land of your forefathers to claim your own new birth of freedom in your beloved homeland. … Through a 2,000-year exile, the longest of any people, anywhere, through conquests and expulsions, inquisitions and pogroms, the Jewish people held on to this promise. … your people, just three years after walking beneath the shadow of death, rose up from the ashes to resurrect yourselves, to reclaim a Jewish future, and to rebuild the Jewish state.”¹

Pence’s election as vice president expresses the significant weight of the Christian evangelical sector of the U.S. voters that gave Trump his presidency. The influence of this sector, its organizations, and leaders have been decisive in the transfer of the embassy and the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Among the organizations that exerted heavy pressure on the White House to keep Trump’s election promise were the Christian group headed by Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, and also American Christian Leaders for Israel, a coalition of more than 60 evangelical and pro-Israel supporters in the United States.

Dr. Jurgen Buhler, president of the International Christian Embassy, said several weeks ago that “evangelical Christians in the United States support President Trump en masse because of his promise to implement the law and honor Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”²

As a counterweight to the evangelical organizations, reverse pressure was applied by the State Department and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who continually warned Trump about the expected ramifications of taking this step, from cutting ties with the Palestinians to revenge attacks against the United States around the world.

The full article can be read at JCPA here.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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