This House believes that Jerusalem should be divided

Jerusalem is a city in the Middle East that is currently under the control of Israel. In contemporary times, the question of the status of Jerusalem begins in 1947. After World War I, the League of Nations approved the British Mandate of Palestine with the intent of creating a "national home for the Jewish people." In 1947, the United Nations approved the partition of Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. Jerusalem was to remain an "international city" until both an Israeli and Palestinian states were established. On May 14, 1948 the state of Israel declared independence. The Palestinians and other Arab states, objecting to the existence of Israel, launched a military offensive against Israel in 1948. Israel's subsequent victory caused the idea of a Palestinian state to recede. Following the war of 1967, Israel assumed de facto control over all of Jerusalem, declaring its "unification". Jerusalem's status under international law, however, has remained undetermined. Since 1967, Palestinians have continued to fight to establish an independent Palestinian state out of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and (in most forms) with Jerusalem as a shared capital with the Israelis (under most Palestinian proposals). Because Palestinians generally require that Jerusalem be included in any Peace Agreement, the Peace Process has been stuck on the question of whether or not to "divide" or "share" Jerusalem as the capital of both an Israel and Palestinian state. Palestinians have generally rejected the idea of establishing a Palestinian state without Jerusalem as its capital. The debate regarding whether to "share" Jerusalem, therefore, remains central the Middle East Peace process. The debate revolves around the following questions. Will "sharing" Jerusalem help the Middle East Peace Process and long-term stability? Or, will it merely transfer the battle-lines of the current conflict into Jerusalem, where it could possibly be more damaging? Do Palestinians and Israelis have equally valid claims to Jerusalem, or does one have a better claim? What does international law say? How do we read the UN's initial efforts to make Jerusalem into an "international protectorate"? Have these efforts been invalidated by subsequent events, namely the many wars that have been fought since? Does the UN's intention to make Jerusalem into an "international" city still apply? What would sharing Jerusalem do to Israeli and Palestinian societies? Would sharing Jerusalem be good for the economies of Israel and a Palestinian state?

Sharing Jerusalem is necessary for peace

The only sustainable solution is to divide and then share Jerusalem, and the Haram-Temple Mount. No final deal will be possible if one side or the other is not willing to embrace this. Sharing Jerusalem would involve acknowledging and respecting each other’s claims which would extend to the other problems preventing agreement. (1)

Sharing is the only solution that leads to peace, as the Palestinians in East Jerusalem will not tolerate permanent Israeli governance. Peace will always be a trade-off; Israel needs security while the Palestinians need territory and a viable capital city which they have dreamed of having in East Jerusalem for decades. (9)(5) In any peace deal Israel will have to accept that their security forces cannot be in control of Muslim areas. The Palestinians won’t trust them as a result of decades where they have not been fair to Palestinians and have been abusive rather than protective.(2) All this means that Israeli rule in East Jerusalem can never be legitimate in the eyes of the Palestinians, and so long term peace can never emerge as long as this rule continues.

French President Nicholas Sarkozy said in 2008: "There cannot be peace without recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of two states and the guarantee of free access to the holy places for all religions."(3) There has actually been recent recognition of this fact on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides. Hady Amr, Director of  Brookings Doha Center, wrote in 2007: "At a recent closed-door gathering of former Israeli and Palestinian negotiators hosted at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution...had come to realize just how painful the issue of Jerusalem was for both sides, that neither side could feel whole without Jerusalem, and that separation arrangements were unworkable when emotions flared over a few feet of Jerusalem stone. Although it took a decade, the Israelis realized that they could not be secure from Palestinian rancor if they deprived Muslim and Christian Palestinians of sovereignty over the Muslim Noble Sanctuary and the holy Christian churches. The Palestinian negotiators also acknowledged the corollary Israeli need for sovereignty over not only the Wailing Wall, but also the Jewish Temple Mount."(4) A poll in 2000 showed some 40 percent of Israelis were ready to give up Arab East Jerusalem without even knowing what they would get in return.(1) While it is an unlikely solution most of the more likely methods have already been tried so new more unconventional solutions need to be tried. The division of Jerusalem could be such a solution that would kick start the rest of the peace process. The benefits of ending the conflict would be immense.(4)


Dividing Jerusalem would simply turn the city into a war zone, with the battle lines being drawn wherever the dividing lines are drawn, as the two mixed-up and opposing communities fight for control over streets, holy sites and neighbourhoods. Moreover, it is simply not true that the inhabitants of East Jerusalem necessarily want to be the inhabitants of the capitol of a new Palestinian state rather than inhabitants of Israel. An opinion poll of residents of all 19 Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem conducted in 2011 showed opposition to a transfer of control to the Palestinian Authority. 40% said that they would move to Israel if their neighbourhood was transferred to the Palestinian Authority, and 39% believed most of their neighbour’s preferred Israeli citizenship. On the other hand only 29% would move to a Palestinian neighbourhood if theirs remained in Israel, and 31% estimated that most of their neighbours preferred Palestinian citizenship. 35% prefer Israeli citizenship compared to 30% preferring Palestinian citizenship, with 30% not knowing or not answering. Residents therefore seem to be satisfied with their current situation of having Israeli identity cards which entitle them to all the rights of Israeli citizens except the right to vote in national elections. They are also all entitled to citizenship upon request, in which case they may vote in national elections.(6) This means that sharing Jerusalem will not be a simple solution and that the Palestinians can come to trust the Israeli government and its security services.

Palestine has as valid a claim to Jerusalem as Israel does:

The Palestinians have as valid a claim to Jerusalem as the capitol of their state as the Israelis has a claim to Jerusalem as the capitol of their state. At the end of 2008, the population of East Jerusalem was 57% Muslim (Palestinian) and only 43% Jewish, sowing a clear and workable Palestinian majority in East Jerusalem.(10) Both sides have important religious sites in the city. The dome of the Rock is integral to Islam to the prophet Muhammad’s night journey to the temple making it Islam’s third holiest place after only Mecca and Medina. It is equally important for Jews to have access to the Western Wall.(1)

For the Palestinians Israel has made its claim over the whole of Jerusalem more illegitimate by misgoverning the East of Jerusalem. For example, because there are no Arab’s on the committee that chooses street names in Jerusalem in the telephone book maps of Arab neighbourhoods are blank, like unexplored parts of the Amazon in the 19th century. As a result mail is seldom delivered there, and having Arabs' become perceived to be  invisible, non-existent or else branded as terrorists.(5)

Throughout the Israeli occupation the demographic balance has served as the main consideration in Israeli decision making for both local and central government. This has been a deliberate attempt to forstall any attempt by the Palestinians to claim that they have an equal right to Jerusalem. Israeli policies have been directed to mainly serve spatial/demographic domination of "Jewish Jerusalem." There was no attempt to "integrate" the Palestinian neighborhoods' functions with West Jerusalem or the settlements built in Palestinian areas. On the contrary, the policy has been to separate and isolate them.

East Jerusalem serves naturally as a metropolitan center of the entire West Bank, until the Oslo agreement in September 1993, some autonomy of Palestinian Jerusalemites was allowed especially in educational, sport, health, cultural, religious institutions and community based organizations. There has however been a movement from "United Jerusalem" to "Jewish Jerusalem." From 2000 the Palestinian demographic threat, became the reason for "getting rid" of Palestinian Jerusalemites after Israel had accomplished its spacio-political goals for a "Jewish Jerusalem." Israel of today is in the process of replacing the slogan of "United Jerusalem" with great "Jewish Jerusalem" with the Old City as its core. As a result of the Israeli policy, Palestinian neighborhoods (including the available land for future development) consist of only 17 percent of the entire East Jerusalem area and 7 percent of total municipal Jerusalem. Israel restricted the Palestinian construction and economic development, which led to the emigration of the Palestinians from the city to new areas developed as suburbs of the city. This territorial/demographic domination and restriction on Palestinian development affected East Jerusalem by deteriorating its functionality in disconnecting it from its hinterland and West Bank areas.(14)

Israeli officials have also not been fair or protective of Palestinians,  repeatedly being highly abusive, and Israeli security forces have been accepting of abusive Israeli civilian treatment of Palestinians.(2) Moreover, Jerusalem can be shared, and thus divided in practical terms but not "divided" per se. It has been a Palestinian position that Jerusalem can "remain the capital of Israel" and can "remain undivided". This is a as long as that does not preclude the Palestinians from also having their capital in a "shared" city.(11) What matters is that it is recognised that the Palestinians have as valid a claim to their part of Jerusalem as the Israelis do to their part, and as a consequence Jerusalem  should be divided in such a way as to give the Palestinians control over their area as the capitol of their new state.


Israel has a better historical, moral and demographic claim to an undivided Jerusalem as its capitol than the Palestinians have a claim to East Jerusalem. This is both because Israel's historical claim is older, and indeed original, but also because Israel does govern all Jerusalem, including East Jerusalem, both fairly and democratically. Moreover, the idea that Jerusalem could be is not practical. If all Jerusalem becomes the capital of both Israel and Palestine, this would create all sorts of potential problems. If it was shared for example, would a baby born in a shared Jerusalem’s civic nationality be Israeli or Palestinian? And if an act is committed in Jerusalem which one nation's government recognises as a crime but the other doesn't, who decides what should be done? Different countries sharing a disputed territory but not dividing it is very illogical, even more so if that territory is the capital of both. Imagine what would have happened if the UK, France, and the USA decided to share Berlin with the USSR instead of dividing it!

International law supports dividing Jerusalem

The Palestinian people since 1967 have demonstrated through resistance to Israeli occupation their desire for an independent state of their own.(7) An undivided Jerusalem forces the Palestinians living in East Jerusalem to live under the control of a state they do not wish to be a part of, a violation of their right to self-determination under international law. The 1993 Vienna Declaration, which reaffirmed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Charter (and so sets the standard in current international law), unequivocally gives all peoples the right to self-determination: “All people have the right to self-determination. Owing to this right they freely establish their political status and freely provide their economic, social and cultural development...World Conference on Human Rights considers refusal of the right to self-determination as a violation of human rights and emphasizes the necessity of effective realization of this right”.(12) Because Israel captured East Jerusalem during the 1967 war, it is considered occupied territory under international law, and it is illegal for Israel to annex it.(7) This is why most countries do not recognise Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem and in fact keep their diplomatic missions in Tel-Aviv today and do not consider Jerusalem the official capital of Israel.(15) The fact that Arab states initiated the 1967 war does not justify Israel responding by annexing Palestinian territory or holding on to East Jerusalem, and so international law supports the return of East Jerusalem to the Palestinians.(8)


The 1947 Arab invasion invalidated the "international" status of Jerusalem. The Arab non-acceptance of Resolution 181 and invasion of Israel immediately upon its declaration of statehood essentially reneged the resolution and the creation of an Arab state at the time.(15) Furthermore, self-determination is not an absolute right. Not every territory and region in the world that seeks independence has the right to it. This is due in no small part to the fact that such a system would be unworkable. Certain criteria must be met for a territory and people to obtain a legitimate right to self-determination, including not compromising the fundamental security or territorial integrity of the original state, which a Palestinian East Jerusalem would probably do.

Jerusalem cannot be neatly or peacefully divided

Dividing Jerusalem would simply draw up battle lines through the city. With layers of neighbourhoods so close, security is a very real concern. Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed this issue: "We've seen what happens when we leave. It's not an Arab majority. It's Hamas. Let's be very clear. It's an Iranian base," he said. "If we leave here, Hamas comes here. They start rocketing. They don't have to rocket. They can use small arms fire right into every one of these neighbourhoods. Look how intertwined it is." Finally he complained, "It's hard for me to see how people cannot see that instead of being the end of conflict, it would be the beginning of a conflict we cannot even imagine."(16) Nadav Shragai, a foreign affairs analyst, argues: "The moment that we re-divide Jerusalem and divide up the Old City of Jerusalem, we're going to create chaos. Look what's happening in Iraq where mosques are getting blown up and churches are being attacked. Do we really want to put that in the heart of Jerusalem, with Hamas and a Palestinian version of the Taliban?”(17)

Giving the Palestinians control over the Temple Mount, the "outlying neighbourhood" next to the Western Wall, will mean that Jews are no longer be able to pray in peace at the Wall, or hold Memorial Day ceremonies or induction ceremonies for paratroopers there; nor will they be able to ensure the safety of the president or prime minister should either wish to participate in such ceremonies. Imagine the street battles in the alleys of Sajiyeh and Beit Hanun, in the Gaza Strip, transferred to the ancient streets of Jerusalem, which today teem with Jews. Think about how bar-mitzvah ceremonies or wedding pictures could be held at the Western Wall, or even plain old visits to place a note in the cracks, if Palestinians "controlled" the area a few hundred meters away.(17) The examples of Rachel's Tomb, which the Oslo Accords turned into a half-abandoned border post on the outskirts of Bethlehem, and 19 years (from 1948 until 1967) years in which Jews were forbidden to visit their holy places, even though the armistice agreement with Jordan ostensibly guaranteed such visits, are pertinent here in demonstrating that religious rights would most likely not be respected in a divided Jerusalem.(17)  Dividing Jerusalem will fail like all divided cities have failed historically. In the city of Nicosia in Cyprus, for example, they decided to build a wall to separate Turkish and Greek Cypriots, but this failed to solve the economic or political aspects of the conflict between the two peoples. And in Berlin, the wall brought no positive results, and was eventually toppled by residents themselves.(18) The idea of dividing Jerusalem between the Israelis and Palestinians presupposes that Jerusalem is capable of a neat division. But it is not. Somehow, any separation of the city into component parts has to recognize that there are myriad economic and cultural links among political adversaries. Moreover, the monuments and shrines of the Old City attract visitors from all over the world: Muslims who want to worship at al-Aqsa Mosque; Jews seeking to pray at the Western Wall; Christians keen to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or follow the Stations of the Cross. Try as one might, it is not possible to count out the lanes of the Old City so that each of them is controlled by only one faith, one ethnicity. Dividing Jerusalem, says Daniel Seidemann, a lawyer and expert on Jerusalem affairs, is "a political impossibility and a historical inevitability. It will take microsurgery, and I'm afraid the politicians will go at it with a hatchet.”(5) For all these reasons dividing Jerusalem would not be a neat, peaceful process but rather a contested and bloody one which would let forth a new conflict on the very streets of Jerusalem.


The Palestinians will accept a peace deal that gives them East Jerusalem, and so the fears over 'Hamas' are misplaced as the conflict will end. In October 2010 Senior Palestine Liberation Organization official Yasser Abed Rabbo said that the Palestinians will be willing to recognize the State of Israel in any way that it desires, if the Americans would only present a map of the future Palestinian state that includes all of the territories captured in 1967, including East Jerusalem. “We want to receive a map of the State of Israel which Israel wants us to accept. If the map will be based on the 1967 borders and will not include our land, our houses and East Jerusalem, we will be willing to recognize Israel according to the formulation of the government within the hour. ” added Rabbo.(18) Moreover, Jerusalem has been psychologically and religiously divided since 1967. The walls may be invisible, but they are high and thick. Many Israelis never go to the Arab neighbourhoods or the Old City, because they know, even though Israel controls them, they are not welcome. Many Arabs don't go to the Jewish sections, because they too know they are not welcome. And tens of thousands of secular Israelis have fled Jerusalem for Tel Aviv, because they do not feel comfortable in a city dominated by the ultra-Orthodox.(1) Only formalizing these divisions can end the conflict.

Jerusalem belongs to Israel

Jerusalem became a city in 1010 B.C.E. when King David defeated the Jebusites. King David made that city his seat of government. In fact, King David loved Jerusalem that he brought the sacred Ark of the Covenant into that city and stripped the so-called twelve tribes of Israel of some of their spiritual and administrative functions. The Torah is the History of Israel. Jerusalem historically was created and founded by an Israeli and therefore remains the heritage of all Israelis forever, as it is irrevocably bound up not only in their history and culture but also in the Jewish religion.(19)

Moreover, Israel has fought for East Jerusalem and so has no reason it should give it up. Chris Mitchell argued in 2008: "Despite any public warnings, the private negotiations continue for the November summit...In the midst of these plans, some see an irony of history...This year, Israel celebrated the 40th anniversary of the re-unification of Jerusalem...The battle 40 years ago during the 1967 Six Day War reunited a divided city between Jordan and Israel. And for the first time in more than 2,000 years, Israel controlled the city of Jerusalem...Some fear that what Israel won on the battlefield could be lost at the negotiating table."(16) Moreover, Israel has not lost its legitimacy to govern East Jerusalem, as it governs it was well as it can and does so democratically. Israel is a democracy and is doing a fair job in keeping the city open to all three main monotheistic religions. Despite the Inquisition which ruined the Jews and the city, Christians today have been welcomed to the city and their holy places have been given both respect and honour by the State of Israel. Even Muslims have been given the right to maintain their Dome of the Rock - or the Al-Aksa Mosque. There is no reason why this fair religious arrangement should be changed. Even Rome, the seat of the Catholicism has accepted and appreciated the manner by which Israel is keeping Jerusalem free for all religions.(2)

It is for such reasons that a 2011 poll showed that 35% of the inhabitants of East Jerusalem prefer Israeli citizenship, 30% prefer Palestinian citizenship, and 30% didn't know or preferred not to answer. This poll, conducted in all of East Jerusalem's 19 Arab neighbourhoods, shows that Palestinians are mostly satisfied with their present conditions. Their Israeli identity cards entitle them to all the rights of Israeli citizens except the right to vote in national elections, though they can still vote in municipal elections. They are also all entitled to citizenship upon request, in which case they may vote in national elections.(6) Israel offers the opportunity for Palestinians to become representatives of their local communities, but that Palestinians reject this opportunity out of fear of being seen as sympathizing with the enemy. They shirk the opportunity to govern themselves and inflame tensions with Israel. They are, therefore, largely responsible for the poor state of East Jerusalem. Israel should not be held solely responsible.(5) Therefore Israel has a superior claim to all of Jerusalem than the Palestinians do to East Jerusalem, and so the city should not be divided.


While it is technically true that the first founders of Jerusalem were Jewish, this in no way established a de facto right to that city. While Jerusalem may have technically been founded by a Jewish king, the intervening years saw more rule by non-Jewish peoples than not. Furthermore, the communities living there, particularly the Muslim populations, also built their own religious monuments and sights there, most notably the Dome of the Rock (the site of the Prophet Muhammad's ascension to heaven is Islamic teachings). Arguing this ignores the many years of control that followed the founding of Jerusalem. It ignores centuries of cultural and religious heritage that subsequent, and more contemporary, populations have developed in Jerusalem, and it ignores the equally valid claims the Palestinians groups have to Jerusalem. While it would clearly be unfair to give the capitol entirely to the Palestinians, it must also be recognized that their claim must be recognized as having equal legitimacy as Israel's. If Israel claims it deserves the city because of history and religious significance, then the Palestinians can say the same thing right back.(19)

Dividing Jerusalem would harm Israeli society:

Besides the aforementioned security concerns, many other harms would also result to Israeli society if Jerusalem were divided. Jerusalem is simply too important to Israeli society to be divided. Ben Gurion explain in 1937, "for the Jews, the millions of the Jews who do not know the difference between the Sharon [or the Jezre'el] and the Valley [or the difference between Rehavia and the Old City] the name Jerusalem means everything."(20) This remains true today: Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky said in 2000, "Above all, Jerusalem is the base of our identity."(21) This is why sharing Jerusalem is forbidden under Israeli law. In 1980, Israel's parliament, the Knesset, passed the "Basic Law". This proclaimed, "Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel." This makes it unlawful, under Israeli law, to now divide Jerusalem and share it as a joint capital with a Palestinian state, and shows how deep Israeli attachment to an undivided Jerusalem is.(15)

Dividing Jerusalem would destroy the city, Roni Aloni-Sadovnik argued in 2006: "Yet there is a truth that has yet to be spoken: Any division of Jerusalem will bring about the city's destruction. Maybe, after 3,000 years of bloodletting and destruction, the time has come to understand that the road to peace does not run through Jerusalem."(18) A divided Jerusalem would also be less viable economically. Dividing a city in two means cutting off commerce between the two sides. It means cutting markets in half, reducing the market of suppliers for consumers and consumers for suppliers by 50%. This is highly problematic for a city that aims to become an global centre, and this is even more problematic when the city involved is considered to be a holy one by three faiths, all of whom want to see it prosperous and strong. Therefore dividing Jerusalem would be too harmful to Israeli society and to Jerusalem itself, and so it should not be divided.


Dividing Jerusalem will not alienate Jews from their heritage. Dennis Ross writes in the book "the Missing Peace", that it is a myth: "that all of Jerusalem, including the exclusively Arab neighbourhoods of Jerusalem, must remain Israeli lest the division of East Jerusalem rob Israel of its link to its Jewish heritage."(22) Furthermore, splitting Jerusalem will establish needed peace for economic growth. Without peace, it is impossible for Jerusalem to thrive economically as it should. If splitting Jerusalem is the best way to establish peace, then it is also the best way to stimulate economic growth. Finally, even if it would be damaging to Israeli society or culture to lose East Jerusalem, the fact that Israel illegitimately acquired it in a war means that this is a burden the Israelis should bear, instead of forcing the harm on the Palestinians.


(1) Friedman, Thomas L. "Uniting Jerusalem". New York Times. 11 August 2000. ;

(2) Sage, Robert. "Should Jerusalem be split between the Israelis and Palestinians?" Helium Election. 2008. ;

(3) New York Times. “Sarkozy calls on Israel to share Jerusalem with Palestinians”. New York Times. 23 June 2008. ;

(4) Amr, Hady. "Shared Sovereignty, Jerusalem and the War of Ideas". Brookings Institute. 21 July 2007. ;

(5) McGirk, Tim. "Jerusalem Divided". Time. 21 November. 2007.,9171,1686801-3,00.html ;

(6) Benhorin, Yitzhak. “Poll: Jerusalem Arabs prefer Israel”. 13 January 2011.,7340,L-4013000,00.html ;

(7) BBC News. “Israeli settlements condemned by Western powers”. BBC News. 2 November 2011. ;

(8) BBC News. “1967: Israel launches attack on Egypt”. BBC News On This Day. 5 June 1967. ;

(9) Ross, Dennis. “Don't Play With Maps”. New York Times. 9 January 2007. ;

(10) Choshen, Maya and Korach, Michal. "Jerusalem, Facts and Trends 2009-2010". Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies. ;

(11) DrSteveA. “Barak says share Jerusalem / Condi lies about Iran talks”. DrSteveA's Blog. 11 July 2008. ;

(12) United Nations World Conference on Human Rights. “VIENNA DECLARATION AND PROGRAMME OF ACTION”. United Nations. 14-25 June 1993. ;

(13) Dr. Hazem Nusseibeh. "Jerusalem: Capital of Palestine". Jerusalemites. ;

(14) Nasrallah, Rami. "Wither the Palestinian Capital?" Palestine Center Information Brief. 20 November 2007. ;

(15) “Jerusalem: Unified City, Divided City, or International City?”. 3 August 2000. ;

(16) Mitchell, Chris. "Tears for a Divided Jerusalem?". CBN News Jerusalem Bureau. 4 January 2008. ;

(17) Shragai, Nadav. "Envisioning a divided Jerusalem". Haaretz. 17 October 2007. Nadav Shragai. "Envisioning a divided Jerusalem". ;

(18) Aloni-Sadovnik, Roni. "Dividing Jerusalem won't bring peace". YNetNews. 29 May 2006.,7340,L-3256517,00.html ;

(18) Haaretz. “PLO chief: We will recognize Israel in return for 1967 borders”. 13 October 2010. ;

(19) Johnson, Paul. “A History of the Jews”. Weidenfeld and Nicolson. London. 1987. ;

(20) Golani, Motti. “Jerusalem's hope lies only in partition: Israeli policy on the Jerusalem question, 1948-1967”. International Journal of Middle East Studies. Vol 31 No 4. November 1999. ;

(21) Israel Today. "Rice: Israel must divide Jerusalem". Israel Today. 15 October 2007. 

(22) Levy, Daniel. “Let's not Get Talmudic about Dividing Jerusalem--Just Watch This”. Prospects for Peace. 6 June 2008. ;    


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