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The UK position on Jerusalem - A key issue in the Palestinian track, and a key concern to the whole Islamic world

Jerusalem was supposed to be a ‘corpus separatum’, or international city administered by the UN.  But this was never set up:  immediately after the UNGA resolution partitioning Palestine, Israel occupied West Jerusalem and Jordan occupied East Jerusalem (including the Old City).  We recognised the de facto control of Israel and Jordan, but not sovereignty.  In 1967, Israel occupied E Jerusalem, which we continue to consider is under illegal military occupation by Israel. Our Embassy to Israel is in Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem. In E Jerusalem we have a Consulate-General, with a Consul-General who is not accredited to any state:  this is an expression of our view that no state has sovereignty over Jerusalem.

  • The UK position was formally expressed in April 1950, when HMG extended simultaneous de jure recognition to both Jordan and Israel.  However, the statement withheld recognition of the sovereignty of either Jordan or Israel over the sectors of the city which each then held, within the area of the corpus separatum as stipulated in UN General Assembly Resolution 303 (IV) of 1949.  In the British view, no such recognition was possible before a final determination of the status of this area, although HMG did recognise that both Jordan and Israel exercised ‘de facto authority’ over those parts of the city and area which each held.
  • In the 1967 war, Israel occupied the whole city, taking possession of the Jordanian (East) sector to add to West Jerusalem, which it already held.  The Israeli government immediately extended its civil law to the whole city, simultaneously greatly enlarging the municipal boundaries into the West Bank.  This purported annexation of East Jerusalem was reaffirmed in 1980 when Israel enacted its ‘Jerusalem Law’, formally declaring East and West Jerusalem together, ‘whole and united’, to be ‘the capital of Israel’.
  • The UK rejects these Israeli measures to change the status of Jerusalem.  The UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 478 of 1980 in response to the Israeli annexation, declaring it to be a violation of international law;  the British Government has reiterated and amplified this position many times since.
  • HMG’s formal position is based on the 1950 statement:  it recognises that Israel exercises de facto authority in West Jerusalem and, from 1950 to 1967, recognised that Jordan exercised de facto authority in East Jerusalem.  Since the war of 1967, HMG has regarded Israel as being in military occupation of East Jerusalem, and in this connection subject to the rules of law applicable to such an occupation, in particular the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.  HMG also holds that the provisions of Security Council Resolution 242 on the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the 1967 war applies to East Jerusalem.  The Venice Declaration and subsequent statements (both by the UK alone and with EU partners) have made clear that no unilateral attempts to change the status of Jerusalem are valid.
  • The UK believes that the city’s status has yet to be determined, and maintains that it should be settled in an overall agreement between the parties concerned, but considers that the city should not again be divided.  The Declaration of Principles and the Interim Agreement, signed by Israel and the PLO on 13 September 1993 and 28 September 1995 respectively, left the issue of the status of Jerusalem to be decided in the ‘permanent status’ negotiations between the two parties.
The Palestinian Track of the Peace Process
The Syrian Track of the Peace Process
The Lebanese Track of the Peace Process
The UK Position on Jerusalem