The location of the new U.S. Embassy in Israel: facts and interpretations

The Embassy is housed in the Consulate, which is partially located on neutral territory

A new U.S. Embassy in Israel, temporarily housed in the Consulate in Jerusalem, which was built in 2010, is located partly on the plot of land that Washington officially recognizes as part of Israel.

Acting US Undersecretary of state for public diplomacy Heather Nauert said that the Embassy is “partially in West Jerusalem” – part of the city, which the UN recognizes as Israel – and partly “neutral zone” between the lines of the truce established by Israel and Jordan on April 23, 1949. The Western edge of this neutral zone, which on the map has the form of a pentahedron, comes into the territory of the Embassy.

A senior UN official, who requested anonymity, called this land “occupied territory” in accordance with the fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and the Hague Convention of 1907.

In the administration trump’s claim that there is no official position on the specific boundaries of Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem, although they recognize the city as the capital of Israel.

However, some experts on the Middle East believe that the location of the Embassy suggests that in fact the US has a position on the sovereignty over Jerusalem, which Israel calls its indivisible capital.

The Palestinians, in turn, seek to make East Jerusalem, occupied by Israel during the Arab-Israeli war of 1967, the capital of an independent Palestinian state.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel kurtzer in an interview with “Voice of America” noted that the placement of the Embassy in the neutral zone, which Israel annexed after 1967, actually means the recognition of Israel’s actions. Kurtser, is currently teaching international law at Princeton University, was as Ambassador from 2001 to 2005.

Professor of international law at northwestern University Eugene Kontorovich makes the decision even more significance. In a Sunday article in the Wall Street Journal, he stated that the location of embassies “demonstrates that the United States not only consider Jerusalem the capital of Israel, but… recognize a city of United”.

The state Department refused to answer a question of the correspondent of “voice of America” about whether to regard the location of the Embassy as recognition of the annexation “neutral zone” by Israel.

It is assumed that, in the Consulate building in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Arnona, the Embassy will be located temporarily. U.S. authorities say they are looking for a place for permanent disposal of the Embassy, the arrangement of which may take years.

The international community to the peculiarities of the territorial location of the Embassy reacted with restraint, even Israel itself, praised the decision, but publicly they did not comment on the significance of the selected location.

The government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas refrained from commenting, not counting the March announcement of the negotiator “of the Palestine liberation Organization” Ashraf Khatib in the New York Times. He called the neutral zone “occupied territory,” noting that its status should be resolved in the negotiations with Israel.

At the end of last April’s summit of the League of Arab States issued a communiqué in which the leaders stated that “confirmed the illegality of the decision of the US to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” but did not mention the location of the Embassy.

Since then, as of February 23, the US announced, to house the Embassy, none of the organs or representatives of the UN publicly this information is not commented.

The Palestinian authority has little to say about the location of the Embassy because they were “terrified” the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, an analyst at the Wilson Center Aaron David Miller, a former state Department Advisor on Arab-Israeli negotiations: “the Question is not where exactly in Jerusalem will be an Embassy, and the fact that the Embassy is moved to Jerusalem.”

Another reason for the restrained reaction of the Palestinian side may lie in the fact that the UN representative called the place where is located the Embassy, “occupied territory” not “occupied Palestinian territory” (OPT). The term OPT in the UN take against the territories which were under the formal control of Jordan prior to Israel’s takeover in 1967. In 1988, Jordan gave the claims to these territories to the Palestinians. Regarding the lands between the lines of the truce, such as the area where is located the Embassy, then, according to the representative of the United Nations, has never recognized the territory formally controlled by any of the parties to the conflict.

The silence of Israel can be linked to another bizarre historical moment: in 1949 Israel and Jordan informally agreed to divide the neutral zone on the Israeli sector in the West and Jordan to the East with the enclave for the headquarters of the UN Body monitoring the implementation of the armistice (UNTSO). The division has not been formalized in a legally binding form, however, from 1949 to 1967 Israeli civilians and even security forces in the Western sector almost never encountered with the intervention of Jordan or UNTSO.

In this regard, the location of the American Embassy in this area is not controversial to the Israelis as in the left and right of the political spectrum. In an interview with “Voice of America” Israeli military historian Yagil Henkin conservative Jerusalem Institute for strategic studies noted that he sees “no significance” in the choice of venue for the Embassy, while the lawyer Daniel Seidemann of liberal research organization Terrestrial Jerusalem considers “intellectually dishonest” to call the territory occupied. In the administration trump, explaining the decision to place an Embassy in this place, also referred to the fact that Israel for a long time used the area.

Former U.S. Ambassador Dennis Ross, who worked as a mediator in the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, in an interview with “Voice of America” said that he sees a certain logic in vague terms US about the location of the Embassy: “the opening of the Embassy in this place implies that the U.S. administration believes that over time it will become part of Israel. However, they retain some ambiguity, and international relations are often built on preserving a certain ambiguity”.