Contrary to the claims made by Palestinian leaders, various NGOs, and certain members of the international community, international law fully recognizes the Jewish people’s claim to Jerusalem, where they have historical roots dating back over 3,000 years and have been the largest ethnic group in the city since 1820.
Ernst Frankenstein, a British authority on international law said, for example, that the Jewish people have a right to their ancestral homeland and ancient capital city in Jerusalem based on the fact that the Jewish people never relinquished their historic claims to the area.
Furthermore, Frankenstein claimed that Roman, Byzantine, and other successors lacked a “continuous and undisturbed presence” in Israel that would dispossess the Jewish claim to the land. In fact, the Ottoman Turks, who owned the Land of Israel prior to WWI and the British Mandate, renounced their claim to all of the land of Israel in the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. When the Balfour Declaration was drafted there was no Palestinian “nation.” In 1919, Palestine was a sparsely populated land where Lord Balfour claimed that only 700,000 Arabs lived, of whom a large number migrated within recent history.
In contrast, there were far more Jews in the world in need of a homeland in 1919 than there were Arab residents in Israel and there existed a significant Jewish minority that continued to live in Israel. As the Blackstone Memorial, signed by Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Melville Fuller, proclaimed in 1891, Israel, which included Jerusalem, is the “inalienable possession” of the Jewish people “from where they were expelled by force.”
The Balfour Declaration was drafted with the goal of establishing a Jewish national home in the Land of Israel. The “civil and religious” rights of the Arabs were to be respected, yet politically, the country was supposed to belong to the Jews. The Balfour Declaration was ingrained into international law at the San Remo Conference. Through San Remo, “The Jewish people have been given the right to establish a home, based on the recognition of their historical connection and the grounds for reconstituting this national home,” Jacques Gauthier, an expert on international law, had explained.
Thus, the Palestine Mandate, which included a united Jerusalem was established with the goal of guiding “towards independence and self-governance those races, peoples or communities who for various reasons are not yet able to stand alone” – in this case the Jewish people – according to J. Stoyanovsky writing in The Mandate for Palestine. Around the same period of time, the international community discussed setting up mandates to assist other nations in similar situations, such as the Armenians, although in their case it wasn’t implemented.
Contrary to Palestinian claims, none of the resolutions passed since the San Remo Conference renounce the Jewish claim to a united Jerusalem. U.N. Resolution 181, although it called for Jerusalem to be an international city, never held any force under international law and it was rejected by the Arab side. Furthermore, the resolution states that a referendum was to be held after 10 years to determine changes to the city’s status; since Jerusalem had a Jewish majority, it was expected that a united Jerusalem was to become a part of Israel after 10 years. Furthermore, U.N. Security Resolution 242, of which all peace negotiations are based on, deliberately makes no mention of Jerusalem and does not call upon Israel to withdraw from all of the territories it captured in 1967. And finally, when Jordan controlled east Jerusalem, Jordan’s annexation of the area was never recognized by the international community; and since that date, Jordan has relinquished all of her claims to Jerusalem.
Thus, Israel has the strongest claim to Jerusalem according to international law.
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About the Author: Rachel Avraham is a news editor and political analyst for Jerusalem Online News, the English language internet edition of Israel's Channel 2 News. She completed her masters degree in Middle Eastern Studies at Ben-Gurion University. The subject of her MA thesis was: "Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab media."
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