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The World Should Recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital

Many of Israel's supporters, including Donald Trump, claim Jerusalem should be recognised as the country's capital city. But would that be the death blow for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process?

Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has sparked outrage around the world. The Palestinian ambassador to London claims Trump’s move amounts to ‘declaring war on 1.5 billion Muslims’, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has warned that the US could ‘plunge the region and the world into a fire with no end in sight’.

But why all the fuss? According to many of Israel’s supporters, it’s no secret that Jerusalem has been the de facto capital of Israel since its creation. Jerusalem is home to Israel’s Parliament and Supreme Court. It’s where both the Israeli Prime Minister and the President reside. But more than that, Jerusalem has been the spiritual and cultural capital of the Jewish people for thousands of years. Sure, there might be some disputes over a few neighbourhoods and holy sites. But every other country across the globe has the right to choose their own capital. Why not the world’s only Jewish state?

Others warn, however, that symbolic recognition of Jerusalem would be a mortal blow for the currently frozen Israeli-Palestinian peace process. According to the 1993 Oslo Accords, the final status of Jerusalem is meant to be discussed in the latter stages of peace talks — so Trump’s move stalls further progress and rules out US involvement in any future deal. And let’s not forget that East Jerusalem has been occupied by Israel for over fifty years, giving Israel dominion over hundreds of thousands of Palestinian residents and some of the most fiercely contested holy sites in the world. Why should the world recognise Israel’s sovereignty over land that doesn’t belong to it? The Palestinians insist that any two-state peace agreement must also include East Jerusalem as their own capital. So not only would it be a bad move for peace and stability — recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would be a denial of the fundamental right of the Palestinian people to their own homeland.


For the motion

Natasha Hausdorff

Barrister and director of UK Lawyers for Israel

Barrister at Six Pump Court Chambers and a director of the NGO ‘UK Lawyers for Israel’. She previously clerked for the President of the Israeli Supreme Court in Jerusalem. Her family ties to Jerusalem date back to 1846.

Ehud Olmert

Prime Minister of Israel, 2006-2009

Prime Minister of the State of Israel from 2006 to 2009. During this time, he led the country during the Second Lebanon War. He also worked towards a peace agreement with the Palestinians and in November 2007, attended the Annapolis Peace Conference led by President George W. Bush. Olmert resigned in February 2009 in order to fight accusations of corruption. He was acquitted of the central charges but convicted of lesser charges and served a 16-month custodial sentence. He believes there was a conspiracy orchestrated by right-wing circles in the United States and Israel in order to prevent the peace agreement which Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas were very close to concluding.
Against the motion

Ghada Karmi

Palestinian activist, academic and writer

Leading Palestinian activist, academic and writer. She is a research fellow at the Institute of Arab and Islamic studies at the University of Exeter, and is the author of Return: A Palestinian Memoir. She was born in Jerusalem.

Jack Straw

Former Foreign Secretary

Cabinet minister in the governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, where he served as Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Leader of the Commons, and Justice Secretary. Labour MP for Blackburn from 1979-2015. He is a Visiting Professor at the School of Public Policy at University College London.

Emily Maitlis

Lead presenter of BBC Newsnight and one of the UK’s best known broadcasters

Lead presenter of the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme Newsnight. She presents general elections for the BBC and covers US politics for the programme from across America. She has won plaudits for her longer form interviews for Newsnight, for which she has interviewed Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Clinton and the Duke of York.