Part of the Jerusalem site set to house the new US embassy in Israel may be in a “No Man’s Land” between East and West Jerusalem that is claimed by the Palestinians, the New York Times reported Thursday.
US President Donald Trump’s announcement that he would relocate the country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May was met with wide-spread anger among Palestinians and others, but it may be even further complicated with some saying the new embassy location is not in pre-1967 Israeli sovereign territory.
The site meant to house the new provisional US embassy in Jerusalem’s neighborhood of Arnona, until a permanent facility is established, is partially located in an area that was apparently a “No Man’s Land,” a demilitarized zone controlled by the UN, between Israel and the Jordanian-occupied West Bank, from 1948 and 1967.
An undetermined portion of the new embassy site is located between the two armistice lines drawn by hand in 1949 by Israeli and Jordanian military commanders, at the end of the War of Independence. Small differences between the two lines created areas that weren’t under control of either party.
The NYT report quoted an unnamed UN official as saying that any part between the lines would be considered “occupied territory,” since Israel took full control of the area in the Six Day War in 1967.
It also quoted a Palestinian official as claiming the area is occupied.
“No Man’s Land is occupied territory. Any permanent status for that territory should be part of a final status negotiation,” Ashraf Khatib of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Negotiations Affairs Department told the paper.
However, the report added that the US State Department has justified the use of the area, which already houses the country’s consulate which serves Israeli citizens.
The department was quoted as saying in a statement last week that the site “has been in continuous Israeli use since 1949. It is today a mixed residential-commercial neighborhood.”
The article also quoted Raphael Israeli, a professor emeritus at Hebrew University and a former Israeli delegate to the Israel-Jordan Mixed Armistice Commission, as saying that considering the 50-year Israeli control of the area after it previously belonged to nobody, questions about the area’s status were “moot.”
“You can start making hairsplitting arguments, but it seems so obsolete now. Things got blended together, and I don’t know any more which is what and what belongs to whom,” he said.
On December 6, Trump bucked decades of US foreign policy by formally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and setting in motion plans to move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv. In February the US administration announced that it would open its Jerusalem embassy in May 2018 to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence.
Trump’s decision, welcomed by Israel, has been condemned by leaders and foreign ministers across the world, who have said the city’s status should be determined through negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. A number of Muslim leaders have warned the move may lead to violence.