The historical connection of the Jews to Jerusalem is incontrovertible: Three thousand years ago, King David made Jerusalem his capital. Today, outside the walls of the Old City, there are the archeological remains of Ir David, the City of David – believed to be David’s original city.
David’s son, Solomon, built the First Temple adjacent to the city, on Har (Mount) Moriah. It was subsequently destroyed by the Babylonians, who exiled the Jews. After they returned, the Second Temple was built and later enhanced. The Western Wall (Kotel) that stands today is a part of the retaining wall that supported the enlarged Mount upon which that Temple stood.
The Romans destroyed the Second Temple 2,000 years ago and ended the Second Jewish Commonwealth. Over the course of centuries, Jerusalem was then enfolded into the various empires of conquering forces.
However, in 2,000 years Jerusalem has never served as the capital of any nation other than a Jewish nation. With the exception of one brief historical period, Jews have always been present in the city. By the late 1800s, they once again constituted the majority of the population
As to the legal rights of the modern State of Israel to Jerusalem:
The Mandate for Palestine, passed unanimously by the League of Nations in 1922, is an article of international law that has never been superseded. It stipulated that Palestine was to be established as a Jewish Homeland.
Jerusalem is within the boundaries of Palestine as stipulated by the Mandate.
In 1947, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 181, which recommended that within Palestine two federated states, one for the Jews and one for the Arabs, be established. This Resolution proposed that Jerusalem be a corpus separatum, administered by the UN.
General Assembly resolutions are only recommendations; they are not binding and carry no weight in international law.
What is more, Resolution 181 is null and void because the Arabs rejected it, and because the UN never at any point actually assumed responsibility for Jerusalem – never actualized what had been recommended.
Any claims by Arabs or others today that Israel is bound by Resolution 181 are simply fallacious.
By the end of the War of Independence in 1949, Israel held western Jerusalem. Jordan had occupied the eastern part of the city – which encompasses major areas of Jewish heritage, including Ir David and the ancient Jewish cemetery on Mount of Olives, and Jewish holy sites such as the Western Wall and Har Habayit (the Temple Mount). This occupation, as well as the occupation of Judea and Samaria more broadly, was illegal; Jordan had taken the territory in an offensive war.
Jordan rendered eastern Jerusalem Judenrein and—in spite of guarantees in the armistice agreement—denied Jews access to their holy places in that part of the city. Thus the erroneous impression that eastern Jerusalem is “Arab” evolved.
The 19 years during which Jordan controlled eastern Jerusalem was the only time in the 3,000 year history of the city that it was divided. There is only one Jerusalem.
In 1967, Israel took eastern Jerusalem in a defensive war.
The fighting began with Egypt. Israel sent a message to Jordan via the UN: “If you don’t intervene, you will suffer no consequences.” Jordan attacked anyway, and suffered the consequences.
In 1970, international lawyer Stephen Schwebel—who later became president of the International Court of Justice—wrote that the rights to a territory of a state acting in self-defense are superior to the rights of an aggressor attacking that same territory. With regard to Israel, he wrote: “Israel has better title in the territory of what was Palestine, including the whole of Jerusalem…”
After the war, the city was reunited. In 1980, Israel passed into Basic Law JERUSALEM: THE CAPITAL OF ISRAEL. “The complete and united Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.” Jewish neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem were restored, synagogues destroyed by the Jordanians were rebuilt, and new neighborhoods were established.
Today the Palestinian Arabs claim rights to “East Jerusalem.” They say that Israel must pull back in Jerusalem to the “1967 border,” which would place the Temple Mount, the Kotel, and other sacred Jewish sites in Arab hands.
But there is no 1967 border. The line being referred to is only the 1949 Armistice Line, drawn when the fighting between Israel and Jordan came to a halt. The line— which simply designated the locations of the two armies—was intended to be temporary: the Armistice agreement states this clearly. The line was not to prejudice future negotiations to determine a final border.
What is more, the Armistice agreement was between Israel and Jordan. Palestinian Arabs played no part in this. It thus defies all logic that they should today claim part of Jerusalem as “theirs.”
Notes of clarification:
1) It further defies logic—if the Palestinian Arabs are truly claiming only “East Jerusalem” as theirs—why they should object so vehemently to the American Embassy being moved to “West Jerusalem,” which would presumably be Israeli.
In point of fact, in Arabic, the Palestinian Arabs routinely expose their true intention: to possess ALL of Jerusalem. On PA TV, for example, reference is made to “the occupied Arab city of Jerusalem.”
2) When the Palestinian Arabs refer to “East Jerusalem” and “West Jerusalem” this conjures up a mental image of the city divided down the middle. Yet this is not remotely the case: “East Jerusalem” refers to everything that was beyond that Armistice line, which came to be referred to as the Green Line.
Today many Jewish neighborhoods exist in Jerusalem beyond what was the Green Line – even in the north west (Ramot) and the south west (Gilo).