Who Truly Owns Jerusalem?

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President Trump’s recent speech has caused quite a stir; in it, he mentioned US recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, thus defying his opposition. If the US embassy truly gets moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as controversial as it may sound, the process is estimated to take about three years.

Making Jerusalem the capital of Israel is problematic in more than one way. For one, the Palestinians want to make the eastern part of Jerusalem the capital of their own soon-to-be state they wish to establish. Which raises the question – Who Truly Owns Jerusalem?

On paper, the facts look rather straightforward: since 1967, Jerusalem has remained under Israeli sovereignty. In other words, its residents are bound by the Israeli law. In practice, however, more forces have a say in Jerusalem’s political matters.

Recently, the streets of Jerusalem have been plagued by civil unrest. The area’s infrastructure is crumbling and the negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians don’t seem to be able to reach a common ground.

Who Truly Owns Jerusalem?

Israeli government

The Israeli government has never had a proper strategy to deal with the local problems. Generally speaking, they are only involved in pro-active measures, but when it comes to taking the much-needed preventive steps, nothing seems to be moving in the right direction.

The power of their police troops is also a bit limited. Surely enough, their forces may be chasing after the young population throwing stones, detaining, and even arresting them. But legally speaking, they are not allowed to use excessive force, even when such a force is used against them from the opposing side. Open fire, to illustrate an example, is out of the question.

Moving forward, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), even though violent situations are occurring rather frequently, does not intervene. Why is that? It looks like the government is choosing to take the passive route when it comes to matters such as these.


Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Palestinian Authority, can’t come to good terms with the Israeli government. His public statements are encouraging civil unrest, which does not seem to be helping the overall situation either.

Right Wing Organization

Now let’s look at the role of the right-wing organizations. Since the government is not actively reinforcing the municipal legislation, the right-wing Jewish activists are taking advantage of it by purchasing real estate and making Arab neighborhoods their permanent place of residence. That way, they are creating Jewish settlements in the areas where conflict reigns.

Certain neighborhoods like Isawiya and Silwan have had the capacity to function autonomously for quite a while. Rarely do the police troops decide to enter them. The municipality hasn’t built an infrastructure. Also, there is no trace of any repairs being made. In fact, if you glance at the streets, you’ll be able to see the sewage flowing freely.

Looking at the population that resides there, they’re mostly loyal to the Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Palestinian Authority. The right-wing Jewish activists just keep on purchasing property in these neighbourhood.

Now here’s the thing: the people who live there don’t view themselves as Israelis: rather, they view themselves as Palestinians. Further reinforcing this phenomenon is the fact that their municipal matters are not discussed with Israel, but the Palestinian Authority.

If you listen to Israel’s claims exclusively, you’ll hear that Jerusalem is united as a city and that their municipality services both Arab and Jewish settlements, but in reality, this is not exactly the truth. While the government is involved in some ways, these mostly have to do with gathering intelligence in order to prevent outbursts of violence.

Given how passive the government is regarding improving the standard of living there and that its still operating without a solid strategy in place, how long will we have to wait until the next intifada takes place?

Final Thoughts

So to conclude, answering the question of “Who Truly Owns Jerusalem?” can’t be answered in a simple manner, since multiple forces are at play. But from a truly objective standpoint, Israel’s control of the western side of Jerusalem is hardly questioned by anyone. The eastern side, while it may be considered Palestinian territory by some, is officially under Israeli control as well.

Until the civil unrest is resolved, moving the US embassy to Jerusalem might be a bit premature, much less making it the capital of Israel.