Arabs Push for UN Recognition of Palestinian State with Jerusalem as Capital—Or Will They Settle for Ramallah?

Jerusalem is the historical and current capital of Israel. Illustrative. Israeli flag at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. By Joshua Spurlock

The Arab League is planning to seek a United Nations resolution that will recognize a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital according to an announcement following a meeting of foreign ministers, Al-Jazeera reported on Sunday. Jordanian foreign minister Ayman Safadi told reporters the plan is also to seek UN recognition of the 1967 armistice lines for the Palestinian state’s borders, which would put the Biblical heartland—including cities such as Bethlehem, Hebron, and Shechem—under Palestinian control.

The Arab League plan is in opposition to the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by United States President Donald Trump. However, one key member of the Arab League—Egypt—has reportedly waffled on whether or not they really think it’s worth fighting for Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital. The New York Times reported that Egyptian intelligence officer Capt. Ashraf al-Kholi encouraged prominent Egyptian talk show hosts to push their audiences to resign themselves to the Trump decision.

According to audio of the phone call obtained by The New York Times, the Egyptian Intelligence officer privately asked the talk show hosts, “How is Jerusalem different from Ramallah, really?” Instead, he pointed to the city currently housing the Palestinian Authority government—Ramallah—as a capital for the Palestinians.

The comments clash strongly with public positions taken by Egypt and other Arab leaders. However, Capt. al-Kholi’s concern about conflict with Israel over Jerusalem raises questions about how far the Arab states are willing to support Palestinian rejection of Trump’s Jerusalem announcement—which technically did not rule out a Palestinian capital in part of Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, also on Sunday, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin told Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide that “trust” had to be built anew in trying to restart the Israel-Palestinian peace process. “There are no shortcuts to building trust. We are here. We have returned to our homeland. This is a fact which cannot be denied,” said Rivlin in comments released by his office. “The reality is today that different peoples are living here, in this land, and we must learn to live together.”

Rivlin said Jerusalem is the clear historical capital of Israel in his comments with Norway’s top diplomat and specifically noted the location of their governmental meeting as additional proof of that truth. Said Rivlin, “For more than 2,000 years, the Jewish people have dreamt of Zion. Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people. And this is a matter of fact when we are here meeting in Jerusalem.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, January 7, 2018)

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