Israel has a strong legal and historical case for claiming ownership of Jerusalem and for proclaiming Jerusalem to be the capital of the State of Israel. In contrast, the international view prefers a two-state solution, with Jerusalem the capital of both Israel and Palestine. This view is inconsistent with the fact that the word ‘Jerusalem’ is found 667 times in the Bible, but it is not even mentioned in the Quran! According to the Bible, Jerusalem is the LORD’s city and has a glorious future on this earth when Christ returns to live and reign from there as King. At that time, ‘light’ will go out to the nations from Jerusalem, through Christ, and the name of the city will be “THE LORD IS THERE” (Ezekiel 48.35).
Who Owns Jerusalem – Whose Capital is it?
Jerusalem is mentioned more than 600 times in the Hebrew Bible
– but not once in Islam’s Quran
Jerusalem is perhaps the most contested city in the world, and the question ‘Who owns Jerusalem?’ is much debated. Who’s capital is it? The international community (the UN, the US and the EU) maintains that Jerusalem should be the capital of two states: Israel and Palestine, link
Jerusalem must be the capital of both Israel and Palestine [UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, 28 October 2009]
As far as the US government is concerned, Jerusalem is not a part of Israel [US Supreme Court, June 2015]
That said, things may change under a new US government:
The president is giving serious consideration to moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem [Mike Pence, US Vice President, March 2017]
Whilst Congress approved an Embassy move in 1995, previous administrations have suspended it. Benjamin Netanyahu said that he would “love to see that (a move) happen”. But it would signal that the US is perhaps recognizing the importance of Jerusalem to Israel, and so could be destabilizing.
Clearly, there is confusion and political correctness in the western nations, and not even America or the UN can find a political solution to the Jerusalem problem. This impasse is foretold in end-time prophecy:
I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all the peoples; all who would heave it away will be cut in pieces (Zech 12.2,3)
In contrast to the western view, Israel argues that Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish State. Israel’s strong case is based on the historical connection of the Jews to Israel, Bible prophecy, and the actual legal position based upon the 1920 San Remo Resolution, the 1922 League of Nations Mandate, and Article 80 of the UN Charter. Consequently, Israel proclaimed Jerusalem to be her capital shortly after the declaration of the State of Israel in 1948:
Whereas with establishment of the State of Israel, Jerusalem once more becomes the capital
[ Knesset, 1950 ]
The Status of Jerusalem in International Law
Let’s summarize the essential legal background concerning Jerusalem:
- 1920: The San Remo Peace Conference gave Britain a provisional ‘Mandate for Palestine’ based upon the Balfour declaration
- 1922: The British Mandate was formalized in September 1922 by the Council of the League of Nations. The revised Mandate for Palestine defined the boundary of Jewish Palestine as west of the river Jordan. That included Jerusalem and today’s ‘West Bank’. The mandated territory was in effect reserved to the Jewish people for their self-determination and political development [Prof. Eugene V. Rostow, Professor Emeritus at Yale Law School]
- 1946: The League of Nations was dissolved and its assets and duties transferred to the United Nations (UN). So the Trust (the Mandate for Palestine) was transferred over to the UN, and UN Article 80 of the UN Charter implicitly recognizes the ‘Mandate for Palestine’ of the League of Nations. In other words, the UN implicitly reaffirmed the 1922 Mandate and Article 80 preserved the mandated rights of the Jewish people. Under the Mandate, Jerusalem cannot be divided and Jews still have the legal right to settle anywhere in Mandated land [Dr Jaques Gauthier, international human rights lawyer]. That includes all of Jerusalem!
- 1947: The 1947 UN Resolution 181 called for Jerusalem to be an international city (‘corpus separatum’). But it never held any force under international law because it was rejected by the Arab side
- 1949: UN Security Council Resolution 62 called for implementation of armistice agreements and as a result Israel’s “borders” were re-established along the so-called “Green Line”. This UN armistice line largely reflected the ceasefire lines of 1949. The Green Line divided Jerusalem. The entire Old City was in Jordanian territory, whilst the west of the city was within Israeli territory, link. Note that this division simply arose from the invasion of Israel by Arab armies.
The Red Herring of the Green Line
Today there are frequent International and Palestinian calls based on the 1967 UN Resolution 242 for Israel to withdraw from ‘occupied land’ and return to the ‘pre-1967’ borders – a reference to the 1949 Armistice Green Line which divided Jerusalem. Specifically, these so-called ‘borders’ of Israel did not embrace East Jerusalem. But such calls are inconsistent with the true legal position. Drafters of Resolution 242 made it quite clear that the 1949 Armistice Green Line is not Israel’s legal border:
- The armistice lines of 1948 were intended to be temporary … this, or course, was particularly true of Jerusalem. At no time … did I refer to East Jerusalem as occupied territory [Arthur Goldberg, a drafter of UN Resolution 242]
- It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967, because those positions were undesirable and artificial [Lord Caradon, British Ambassador, a drafter of UN resolution 242]
- The armistice agreements of 1949 expressly preserved the territorial claims of all parties and did not purport to establish definitive boundaries between them [Prof. Judge Schwebel, former President of the International Court of Justice]
To re-iterate, Jordan occupied both East Jerusalem and the West Bank during the 1948-49 war and only gained these areas via war and the Green Line of the UN armistice. These areas had never formally been allocated to Jordan and so were strictly unallocated Palestine Mandate territory. Later, between 1949 and 1967 Jordan simply attempted illegal annexation of this newly gained territory, but then in 1988 Jordan formally renounced any claim to the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Eminent legal scholars, such as Prof. Eugene Rostow therefore maintain that Israeli settlers have as much right to live in the West Bank (and therefore Jerusalem) as non-Jews. He states:
Under international law, neither Jordan nor the Palestinian Arab people of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have a substantial claim to the sovereign possession of the occupied territories. The West Bank should be considered ‘unallocated territory’
The Israeli Government follows this argument and denies that the occupation of the West Bank (and East Jerusalem) is illegal on the grounds that the land was not previously occupied lawfully by any other state.
According to international law, Israel has a well-founded claim to sovereignty over Jerusalem, including its Old City …
rights have been granted to the Jewish people in respect to Jerusalem: that they’re entitled to have sovereignty here …
the rights vested in the Jewish people stand on very solid legal ground and are valid to this day
Under Article 80 and the 1922 Mandate, Jerusalem cannot be divided …
[Dr Jacques Gautier, author ‘Sovereignty over the Old City of Jerusalem’, link]
UN Resolutions have Zero Legal Meaning when it comes to Jerusalem
Can the UN change sovereignty? Legally, no! Gautier maintains that, under Article 80 and the 1922 Mandate, Jerusalem cannot be divided and that Jews still have the legal right to settle anywhere in mandated land (i.e. west of the Jordan). He states that “in international law, once the title to Palestine was given to the Jewish people, this cannot be nullified retroactively as a result of the introduction of new principles of international law several decades later”. So it is claimed that none of the UN resolutions passed since the San Remo Conference can renounce the Jewish claim to a united Jerusalem. The 1967 war and the strong Israeli measures for changing the reality on the ground in the direction of irreversible ‘ownership’ of Jerusalem have now brought the UN to a defensive mode of approach, hoping unsuccessfully to stop the Israeli claims, link.
Historical Connections of Jews to Jerusalem
The Name: The early name for Jerusalem (in Hebrew pronounced yer-oo-shaw-law-yimthe) is mentioned in the first book of the Jewish Torah (Gen 14.18), when Melchizedek was king of Salem. Salem (which is clearly linked to Zion or Jerusalem in Ps 76.2) is from a Hebrew word (pronounced shaw-lame) which came to mean peace. This text alone is highly significant: Melchizedek, whose name means ‘king of righteousness’, was a priest of ancient Jerusalem and a human type of Jesus Christ who will soon rule as righteous king from the future Jerusalem, a place of peace.
So here we have a strong Jewish link to Jerusalem, written c1445 BC, link, and well before other national claims to Jerusalem. In fact, historic Jerusalem is mentioned 809 times in the Bible, beginning with Joshua 10:1 and ending with Galatians 4:25, link, whilst it is claimed Jerusalem is not even mentioned in the Koran, link, link.
Mount Moriah: This provides another strong historical connection of the Jews to Jerusalem. Mount Moriah is an elongated ridge in Jerusalem’s Old City and the top of the Mount is near the Muslim Dome of the Rock, link. The bedrock here is where Abraham would have walked when he came up to sacrifice Isaac around 1800 BC (Gen 22). It is also believed to be the actual site of the altar of burnt offering in Solomon’s Temple. So historically, Mount Moriah in Jerusalem has been the place of Jewish sacrifice for some 2,000 years.
King David: Around 1405 BC, men of Judah fought against Jerusalem and captured it (Judges 1.8), and King David conquered Jerusalem in 1052 BC (1 Chron 11.4-9). David built Jerusalem into a great city and capital of Israel (2 Sam 5.6-9) and he reigned there for 33 years. So Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for over 3000 years.
The Temples: The historic links of Jerusalem with the people of Israel are further strengthened by the fact that the city has been the site of two Jewish temples. The first, Solomon’s Temple, was completed in 957 BC but destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 587/586 BC. It was restored (in inferior form) by exiled Jews who were allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple and restoration was completed around 515 BC, link.
The Second Temple was modest in size until it, and the whole Temple Mount area, was enlarged by King Herod. It was in this enlarged Second Jewish Temple where Jesus threw out the money changers, and it was this enlarged temple that was destroyed by Titus in 70 AD. The traditional location of the First and Second Temples lies in the immediate vicinity of the present-day Dome of the Rock, link, and the Western Wall is the western retaining wall of King Herod’s expanded Temple Mount.
recognition is thereby given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country, link
World Views on Jerusalem
The Israeli Political Position
To understand Israel’s current position we need a brief review of past events:
1946: The League of Nations was dissolved and its assets and duties transferred to the United Nations (UN). So the 1922 British Mandate for Palestine was transferred over to the UN, and Article 80 of the UN Charter implicitly recognizes the Mandate for Palestine of the League of Nations. So the right of Jews to settle anywhere west of the Jordan was preserved, link. That included all of Jerusalem.
1948: When the British Mandate over Palestine expired on 14 May 1948, the Jewish People’s Council gathered in Tel Aviv to declare the establishment of the State of Israel. The official Declaration makes no mention of Jerusalem, although it foresees that Israel “will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions”. Note that the right of Jews to settle there was already embedded in Article 80 of the UN Charter. Immediately after the Declaration, five Arab armies invaded Israel and the end result in 1949 was a division of Jerusalem, with Jordan holding East Jerusalem.
1949: In December, Israel’s Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion announced to the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) that:
Jewish Jerusalem is an organic and inseparable part of the State of Israel … Israel could not even conceive that the United Nations would attempt to tear Jerusalem from the State of Israel
1950: After a vote in January, the Israeli Knesset proclaimed Jerusalem to be the capital of the new State of Israel, link. An amendment to include all of Jerusalem was defeated, and so Israel established government agencies in the western part of the city, link (at this time Jordan had gained control of East Jerusalem). This proclamation was based upon historical connections, Bible prophecy and the true legal position defined by the 1920 San Remo Resolution, the 1922 British Mandate for Palestine and Article 80 of the UN Charter (see fore-going discussion).
1967: In the June Six-Day War, Israel regained all of Jerusalem. She did not ‘annex East Jerusalem’ as is widely claimed, link. Israel merely took back mandated land that had been taken by war in 1948/49. Article 80 still stood, and so all of Jerusalem and the West Bank remained Palestine Mandate territory. From the point of view of Israeli law, it was held in a number of decisions of the Supreme Court that East Jerusalem had become a part of the State of Israel. In the opinion of the Government of Israel, Jordan never acquired sovereignty over the eastern part of the city since it took control of it in 1948 by an act of aggression, link. The walls and barriers separating the Israeli and Jordanian sections of Jerusalem were removed, and on 27th June the Knesset enacted legislation to put East Jerusalem under Israeli civil law, link.
1980: Given that all of Jerusalem was now under Israeli civil law, in July the Knesset passed the Basic Law-Jerusalem which restated Israel’s rights and obligations concerning the capital. It stated:
Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel. Jerusalem is the seat of the President of the State, the Knesset, the Government and the Supreme Court.
The Law also affirmed that the holy places of all religions be protected from desecration, free access to them be guaranteed. United Nations Security Council Resolution 478, adopted by 14 votes to none, with an abstention from the US, declared the law “null and void.” But, as argued above, UN Resolutions have zero legality when it comes to Jerusalem.
1993: In May, seventy representatives of World Jewry assembled in Jerusalem to sign The Jerusalem Covenant (see sidebar). This is a promise of faith made by the State of Israel to the city of Jerusalem. The covenant incorporates biblical passages as well as rabbinic texts that emphasize the importance of the connection to the city. The Covenant states:
the State of Israel is the State of the Jewish People and the Capital of Israel is the Capital of the People of Israel
Today: International convention maintains that a capital city is usually where a state’s central political institutions reside. While Tel Aviv is widely regarded as Israel’s economic and cultural center, Jerusalem is where the Israeli government resides. There we find the organs of political power, including the Knesset, Prime Minister’s Office, Cabinet offices, Foreign Ministry and most other government ministries. They are all located in Jerusalem, Israel’s declared capital city.
The Islamic Position
We will never accept a Palestinian state without Jerusalem as its capital [Palestinian leadership]
The facts are that Jerusalem has been a Jewish holy city since the days of King David, and the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem (the site of two Jewish Temples) is the holiest site in Judaism. But in 638 AD the Muslims captured Jerusalem from the Byzantines and built the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock on the site of the Jewish Temple. So is the Temple Mount an Islamic holy site too? How important is this site to the Muslim?
For some Muslims the Mount is widely considered to be the third holiest site in Islam. But why is it even the ‘third’? The word ‘Jerusalem’ is not even mentioned in the Quran, but it is mentioned 667 times in the Bible! And while Jews pray facing the Temple Mount, Muslims pray towards Mecca! The following video shows how differently Muslims and Jews treat the Temple Mount:
The Western Political Position
As of 2017, Jerusalem was not recognized and no foreign country had an embassy in Jerusalem.
Under the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, Jerusalem’s status was to be that of ‘corpus separatum’, inferring a ‘separate’ city with a special legal and political status due to its shared religious importance. The 1947 plan failed and today the international view prefers a two-state solution, with Jerusalem the capital of both Israel and Palestine, link:
Jerusalem must be the capital of both Israel and Palestine [UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, 28 October 2009]
This view (which is also held by the EU, link) is based on the pre-1967 borders (when Israel did not hold East Jerusalem). The view of individual western countries also denies Israel’s ownership of Jerusalem. In 1994 the UK Government stated, “the British Government does not recognize Israeli sovereignty of any part of Jerusalem” [Malcolm Palmer, Private Secretary to the British Prime Minister]. And in answer to the question: “Is it the view of the United States that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel?“, the US State Department replied:
We are not going to prejudge the outcome of negotiations, including the final status of Jerusalem
[Victoria Nuland, March 2012]
Just a few years later, the US hardened its position, link:
As far as the US government is concerned, Jerusalem is not a part of Israel [US Supreme Court, June 2015]
Clearly, there is confusion and political correctness in the western nations, and not even America or the UN can find a political solution to the Jerusalem problem. This scenario is foretold in end-time prophecy:
I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all the peoples; all who would heave it away will be cut in pieces
The Official Church Position
Although the World Council of Churches (WCC) supports the numerous UN Resolutions against Israel, the prime mover is the Vatican. For instance, the Vatican has claims on Jerusalem real-estate. Vatican officials are now reiterating their demand for control over Jerusalem’s religious sites. Currently, the site known as King David’s Tomb is the Vatican’s major target.
Global Support for a United Jerusalem
On May 26, 2017 a historic initiative bearing over 500,000 signatures from 168 countries was presented to US President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat. This modern ‘Jerusalem Declaration,’ was a historic book containing the names of over 500,000 individuals from around the world who recognize Jerusalem as both the eternal capital of the Jewish People and the undivided capital of the State of Israel, link. The Declaration stands for keeping Jerusalem united under permanent Israeli control.
The Biblical View on Jerusalem
The Bible is quite clear – Jerusalem is the city of the Jews and the city of the God of Israel. The following scriptures clearly map the future for Jerusalem:
Thus says the LORD, I will return to Zion and dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth … for the law will go forth from Zion and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem
(Zech 8.3, Isa 2.3)
For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest … you shall be called Hephzibah … for the LORD delights in you
And the Lord will take possession of Judah as His inheritance in the Holy Land, and will again choose Jerusalem
These scriptures point to the future reign of Christ as King from Jerusalem, and this is clearly prophesied in Psalm 48:
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, in the city of our God, His holy mountain. Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion in the far north, the city of the great King
Jesus referred to this scripture when He said:
I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King (Mat 5.35)
Recall that Zion was originally a Jebusite stronghold located in or near Jerusalem, link. Biblically, Zion refers to ancient Jerusalem – the City of David (2 Sam 5.7), or to the present-day Old City of Jerusalem, or to the future earthly Jerusalem, or to the future, eternal, symbolic Jerusalem (Heb 12.22). So these prophecies clearly show that present-day Jerusalem has just ONE owner – the God of Israel; He ‘delights’ in her, He ‘chooses her’, He will ‘dwell there’ and He will ‘reign as King from there’. The nations should take note: God commands them to be silent over these matters (Zech 2.13).
Despite the world’s claims on Jerusalem, the biblical truth still stands:
Jerusalem is the LORD’s city and has a glorious future on this earth when Christ returns to live and reign from there as King. See Jerusalem’s Future