The European Union Report on Jerusalem: Distortions and Omissions (JCPA) JERUSALEM CENTER FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS) Nadav Shragai Vol. 8, No.26 04/02/09)
JCPA-Jerusalem Center Public Affairs
JCPA-Jerusalem Center Public Affairs Articles-Index-Top
- An imbalanced EU position paper on Jerusalem written in December
2008, and recently leaked to the media, completely ignores Israel´s
historical and legal rights to its capital. The EU attack refers
primarily to the City of David, located just beyond Jerusalem´s Old
City walls, an area identified by archaeologists and historians as
the location of King David´s capital some 3,000 years ago.
- Archaeological excavations took place there during Ottoman rule, as
well as under the ensuing British Mandatory rule, and they have
continued under Israeli rule as well.
- About 20 years ago a wave of new, illegal construction by
Palestinians began on the site, causing significant and sometimes
irreversible damage to the antiquities there. The Jerusalem
municipality intends to offer the delinquent residents generous
compensation and alternative land in the city.
- Jerusalem has had a Jewish majority for the last 150 years - at
least since 1864. Israel´s position in Jerusalem under international
law derives from the Palestine Mandate, where the League of Nations
recognized "the historical tie between the Jewish people and
Palestine," and called "for the establishment of a national home for
the Jewish people in Palestine."
- The 1949 Armistice Agreement between Israel and Jordan did not fix
the final boundaries between the parties, but only the lines of
military separation at the close of the 1948 war. At the demand of
the Arab side, the Armistice Agreement stipulated that it did not
serve to predetermine the rights of any party in the final resolution
of conflict. In other words, upon the outbreak of the Six-Day War,
the 1967 lines enjoyed no diplomatic status.
- In 1967, Israel agreed to allow the Muslim Waqf to manage the
Temple Mount area, with a view toward preventing inter-religious
conflict at one of the world´s most sensitive sites. This was a huge
concession on Israel´s part that has never been properly recognized.
By doing so, Israel has underscored its intention to assure freedom
of access to members of all faiths at all of the holy sites in
An internal European Union position paper on Jerusalem prepared in
December 2008 by the EU ambassadors in Tel Aviv was leaked to the
media in March 2009 by the Israeli Committee Against House
Demolitions.1 The "EU Heads of Mission Report on East Jerusalem"
accuses the Israeli government of "actively pursuing the illegal
annexation" of East Jerusalem, noting that Israeli actions "in East
Jerusalem will only make eventual Israeli concessions on Jerusalem
much harder."2 The report states, "there are currently around 190,000
Israeli settlers living inside East Jerusalem, in addition to around
96,000 in settlements around Jerusalem, the majority living in large
settlement blocks such as Givat Ze´ev, the Etzion bloc and Ma´ale
Yet this biased and one-sided document ignores Israel´s longstanding
legal, national and historical rights to its own capital city. The
document also displays an utter disregard of the vast empirical
evidence that attests to the 3,000-year-old link between Jerusalem
and the Jewish people. With its holy places, the Old City, the region
of the Holy Basin and the Temple Mount, the State of Israel - as the
state of the Jewish people - has exercised its rights in the city in
accordance with the principles of law and natural justice, and has
sought to anchor the city´s status as Israel´s united capital.
The City of David - An Historical Treasure
The EU attack on Israeli activities in Jerusalem refers primarily to
the City of David - also known as the Arab village of Silwan -
located just south of the Old City walls. The City of David is the
area identified by archaeologists and historians as the location of
King David´s capital some 3,000 years ago. David´s son Solomon
established the First Temple on the summit of Mount Moriah, where
Isaac was bound for sacrifice, a location known today as the Temple
Archaeological excavations in the City of David took place during
Ottoman rule, as well as under the ensuing British Mandatory rule,
and have continued under Israeli rule as well, unearthing discoveries
of Jewish life and artifacts from various ancient periods. Work at
the site has received high praise and vast esteem from throughout the
world archaeological community.
Israel has been accused of digging under Palestinian homes and thus
endangering them. Yet this argument is a distortion. While part of
the supervised excavations do indeed take place under homes, Israel
has excavated in the very same way under the houses of Jewish
residents in the Jewish Quarter, endangering no one.
Adjacent to the City of David is an area called the King´s Garden,
described in the books of Nehemiah and Ecclesiastes, as well as in
many other historical sources. Scholars, visitors and pilgrims have
attributed the area to King David and Solomon. About twenty years ago
the Jerusalem municipality repaired a drainage problem at the site
after it would turn into a swamp each winter, providing a breeding
ground for mosquitoes and other pests.
New Palestinian Construction Spreads Over an Archaeological Site
Israel´s resolution of the drainage problem brought in its wake a
wave of new, illegal construction by Palestinians on the site. While
Palestinian Arab residents in Jerusalem can obtain building permits
like the city´s Jewish residents, the eastern part of Jerusalem has
been afflicted with large-scale construction often undertaken without
any building license.4 This construction often occurs on land zoned
for public use (i.e., clinics or parks or, as in this case, an
archeological site). In response to the illegal construction in the
City of David, the Jerusalem municipality issued demolition orders
for 88 structures. Testifying a year ago at the Knesset, the director
general of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Joshua Dorfman,
estimated that the illegal construction did significant and sometimes
irreversible damage to the antiquities at the site. However, only a
number of isolated demolitions were carried out.
The Jerusalem municipality is insisting today on carrying out these
orders, but given the sensitivity of the issue and international
criticism, it intends to offer the delinquent residents generous
compensation that includes land at an alternative site in the city.
The residents, supported by ideological groups and the Palestinian
Authority, have opposed this offer and are engaged in a campaign of
incitement against the state´s authorities and their attempts to
enforce the law. However, after extensive deliberations, the
municipal planning committee in early March turned down a plan
submitted by the residents to "whitewash" the illegal construction at
As Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat explained, "This is one of the most
strategic sites in the city, on an international level, which must be
an open public area....I would like to see what [New York Mayor
Michael] Bloomberg would say about illegal building in Central Park.
Would he give up Central Park because there is illegal building
The Jewish Return to the City of David
An additional issue that has served as a pretext for attacks on
Israel is renewed Jewish residency in the City of David itself.
Scores of Jewish families now live in this area in houses legally
purchased at great cost from former Arab residents. No one forced
Arab owners to sell properties to Jews and earn substantial profits.
The sales were made by individuals acting of their own free will and
in many cases were even documented on video, in order to refute the
litany of complaints that were subsequently made by politically
In fact renewed Jewish settlement in the City of David rests on
empirical Jewish historic, religious, and cultural ties to the area.
Relations between the Jewish and Palestinian residents of the
neighborhood are reasonably warm as long as political elements remain
uninvolved and do not incite the Palestinian residents. Police
sources testify that ever since the Jews began moving into the area,
crime and nationalist incidents there have declined sharply.
The EU´s Problematic Policy Shift on Jerusalem
The recent EU report was not issued in a diplomatic vacuum. Rather,
it is the latest manifestation of a problematic shift in EU policy on
Jerusalem that began in 1999. The German ambassador to Israel at the
time, whose country served as rotating President of the EU, proposed
re-dividing Jerusalem by reviving UN Resolution 181 of 1947, that had
been drafted before Israel was invaded by the neighboring Arab states
in the 1948 war of independence. In fact, Resolution 181 had not
proposed that Jerusalem be divided, but rather that it should be
internationalized, becoming a corpus separatum - a proposal declared
by Israel´s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, to be "null and
The diplomatic resurrection of the idea of denying Israeli
sovereignty over its united capital also energized the longstanding
Palestinian denial of any Jewish connection to Jerusalem. Palestinian
negotiator Ahmed Qurie stated at the time in the official Palestinian
Authority newspaper Al- Ayam, "The (EU´s) letter asserts that
Jerusalem in both of its parts - the Western and the Eastern - is a
land under occupation."7
Israeli Rights in Jerusalem
According to the new EU document, "The EU policy on Jerusalem is
based on the principles set out in UN Security Council Resolution
242." However, Resolution 242, drafted in the aftermath of Israel´s
defensive Six-Day War in June 1967 and unanimously approved by the
Security Council on November 22, 1967, does not mention Jerusalem at
all. Moreover, the operative clauses of the resolution never insisted
on total withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines, but only on withdrawal
from "territories" to "secure and recognized boundaries." The U.S.
ambassador to the United Nations in 1967, Arthur Goldberg, wrote
retrospectively: "I never described Jerusalem as an occupied
area....Resolution 242 does not refer to Jerusalem in any way
whatsoever, and this omission was deliberate."8
In this context, it should be recalled that between 1948 and 1967
during the period of Jordanian rule in Jerusalem, in contravention of
its international legal obligations, Jordan refused to allow Jews
access to the Western Wall, the Mount of Olives, and additional
places sacred to Jews under its control. Over 50 synagogues in the
Jewish Quarter of the Old City were either destroyed or desecrated,
and hundreds of tombstones in the most important Jewish cemetery in
the world on the Mount of Olives were desecrated and smashed. The
reunification of Jerusalem by Israel in June 1967 restored freedom of
religion and worship to all residents of the city - Jews, Muslims and
The European Union report on Jerusalem also ignores the historical
progression of Jewish rights and seniority in the city. Jerusalem has
had a Jewish majority for the last 150 years - at least since 1864.
Israel´s position in Jerusalem under international law derives from
the Palestine Mandate, where the League of Nations, the repository of
international legitimacy prior to the establishment of the United
Nations, recognized "the historical tie between the Jewish people and
Palestine," and called "for the establishment of a national home for
the Jewish people in Palestine." The League of Nations did not
distinguish between Jewish rights in Jerusalem and their rights in
other areas of Palestine.
Israel´s Knesset established Jerusalem as the capital of the State of
Israel in 1950. The Armistice Agreement between Israel and Jordan,
signed a year earlier, did not fix the final boundaries between the
parties, but only the lines of military separation at the close of
the 1948 war. At the demand of the Arab side, the armistice agreement
included a clause that stipulated that nothing in this agreement
would predetermine the rights of any party with regard to the final
resolution of the outstanding issues through peaceful means. In other
words, upon the outbreak of the Six-Day War, the 1967 armistice lines
enjoyed no legal or diplomatic status.
On June 5, 1967, Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol sent a message to
Jordan´s King Hussein saying that Israel would not attack Jordan
unless it initiated hostilities. Nevertheless, Jordan launched an
attack on Israel along the municipal boundary line in Jerusalem. With
the liberation of the Old City of Jerusalem in the course of the Six-
Day War, Israel´s Knesset applied Israeli law, jurisdiction, and
authority to the eastern part of the city.
At the same time, in a concession unprecedented in modern
international diplomatic history that has never been properly
recognized, Israel agreed to allow the Muslim Waqf to manage the
Temple Mount area, with a view toward preventing inter-religious
conflict at one of the world´s most sensitive sites. By doing so,
Israel underscored its intention to assure freedom of access to
members of all faiths at all of the holy sites in Jerusalem.
1. Rory McCarthy, "Israel Annexing East Jerusalem, Says EU," Guardian
(UK), 7 March 2009.
2. "EU Heads of Mission Report on East Jerusalem," EU Observer, 8
March 2009, http://euobserver.com/9/27736
4. Justus Reid Weiner, Illegal Construction in Jerusalem: A Variation
on an Alarming Global Phenomenon (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Center for
Public Affairs, 2003).
5. Etgar Lefkovits, "Barkat May Relocate Silwan Residents," Jerusalem
Post, 19 March 2009,
6. Dore Gold, The Fight for Jerusalem: Radical Islam, the West, and
the Future of the Holy City (Washington: Regnery, 2007), pp. 193-4.
8. Gold, p. 174.
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