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Why Israelis And Palestinians Both Claim Jerusalem

“It is time to officially recognize Jerusalem
as the capital of Israel.” The US has officially moved its embassy in
Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and in doing so, President Trump has reversed decades of consensus about
the city’s status. While Israeli leaders celebrated, Palestinians denounced the move, deepening divides between two sides of a conflict
that is 70 years old. “We’re hearing live fire…” “Rising death toll…” “Quite a juxtaposition…” Here are 5 things to know about Jerusalem
and why it’s so contentious. Israel has controlled West Jerusalem since
1949. During the Six Day War, Israel captured East
Jerusalem and annexed that half of the city. But the international community considers
East Jerusalem occupied territory, whose fate needs to be part of a negotiated deal between
Israel and the Palestinians. In 1980, after Israel passed a law declaring
a united Jerusalem the capital, the United Nations
condemned the annexation. Palestinians want to divide the city and make
East Jerusalem the capital of a future Palestinian state, while Israelis want a unified Jerusalem to
be their capital. During peace process negotiations for the
Oslo Accords, the issue of Jerusalem was initially set aside to avoid derailing the talks. Any successful peace initiative in the future
would likely need to resolve the conflicting claims to the land. Control of Jerusalem has been a trigger for
violence many times in the past. The contested area of East Jerusalem is home
to some of the holiest sites in the world for Jews and Muslims. It is the site where Judaism’s two sacred
temples once stood. And the site where the prophet Mohammed ascended
to heaven. The trouble is that the sites for Muslims
and Jews exist on the same land. There’s a precarious power share in place. Israeli officials control who has access to
the complex. But Muslims have religious control inside. Jews can enter but aren’t allowed to pray. Instead, they use the Western Wall. The second intifada began in 2000, when then-opposition
leader Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount to assert Israel’s right to the complex. Palestinians protested and were met with tear
gas and rubber bullets. The violence lasted five years and killed
more than 3,000 Palestinians and nearly 1,000 Israelis, with thousands more wounded. In the early 70’s, 16 countries had embassies
in Jerusalem, including the Netherlands and Colombia. But after the UN Security Council condemned
the annexation of East Jerusalem in 1980. member states left. Then, Trump signaled a change in policy, and Guatemala and Paraguay also announced they are moving their embassies to Jerusalem And it’s possible that more countries will
follow America’s lead. Though Congress passed a law to relocate the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem more than 20 years ago, the law includes a loophole that allows the
president to delay the relocation for the sake of national security. Every sitting president — Clinton, Bush,
Obama — has used this power and signed the waiver every 6 months. President Trump signed the waiver in June
2017, and again in December 2017, but also signaled he would begin the process of moving
the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. And in May of 2018, he carried out his pledge. The embassy move came at an already a tense
time. Tens of thousands of Palestinians have spent
the past few weeks holding protests on the border between Gaza and Israel, that weren’t
tied to the embassy move. Dozens of Palestinians had been killed even
before the embassy opened. While President Trump was careful not to call
Jerusalem an “undivided” capital. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu
said just that at the US embassy opening. “God Bless Jerusalem, the eternal undivided
capital of Israel.” But opposition to Trump’s declarations and
the embassy move has been growing. And as lines are drawn and the fight for Jerusalem
intensifies, the future of Israeli-Palestinian stability is once again at risk.
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