Israel unlawfully annexed East Jerusalem to its territory. Since then, and despite its incursion upon their home, it has treated the Palestinian residents of the city as unwanted immigrants and worked systematically to drive them out of the area.
In June 1967, immediately upon occupying the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Israel annexed some 70,000 dunams [1 dunam = 1,000 sq. meters] of West Bank land to the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem and applied Israeli law there, in breach of international law.
The annexed territory greatly exceeded the size of Jerusalem under Jordanian rule (about 6,000 dunams), encompassing approximately 64,000 more dunams. The additional land belonged, in large part, to 28 Palestinian villages, and some of it lay within the municipal jurisdiction of Bethlehem and Beit Jala. The annexed area is currently home to at least 350,000 Palestinians and some 209,000 Israeli settlers.
Israeli policy in East Jerusalem is geared toward pressuring Palestinians to leave, thereby shaping a geographical and demographic reality that would thwart any future attempt to challenge Israeli sovereignty there. Palestinians who do leave East Jerusalem, due to this policy or for other reasons, risk losing their permanent residency and the attendant social benefits. Since 1967, Israel has revoked the permanent residency of some 14,500 Palestinians from East Jerusalem under such circumstances.
Israel’s attempts to shape the demographic reality of East Jerusalem are concentrated in several spheres:
Land expropriation and building restrictions
While the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem and the settlement blocs on its outskirts enjoy massive development and substantial funding, Israel goes to great lengths to prevent development in Palestinian areas. As part of this policy, since 1967 the state has expropriated more than a third of the land annexed to Jerusalem – 24,500 dunams, most of it privately owned by Palestinians – and built 11 neighborhoods on them, earmarked for Jewish inhabitants only. Under international law, the status of these neighborhoods is the same as the Israeli settlements throughout the West Bank.
Immediately after the annexation, Israel cancelled all the Jordanian outline plans for the annexed areas but left those for the rest of the West Bank in place. This created a planning vacuum that took some time to fill. Only in the 1980s did the Jerusalem Municipality draw up outline plans for all Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.
The most striking feature of these plans was the designation of huge swathes of land as “open scenic areas” where development is forbidden. In 2014, after several amendments made to the plans over the years, these “scenic areas” made up about 30% of the land in Palestinian neighborhoods. Only some 15% of the land area in East Jerusalem (about 8.5% of Jerusalem’s municipal jurisdiction) is zoned for residential use by Palestinian residents, although Palestinians currently account for 40% of the city’s population.
Cutting off East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank
Until 1967, Jerusalem under Jordanian rule was an economic, medical, cultural and religious hub for many residents of the West Bank, who continued to work, study and shop in the city after the Israeli annexation. However, in the early 1990s, during the first Intifada, Israel put up checkpoints deep within the West Bank, and since then has forbidden Palestinians from other parts of the West Bank to enter Jerusalem without a special permit. In addition, the Israel Police erected checkpoints at the entrances to several Palestinian neighborhoods in the city, curtailing residents’ movement. These restrictions weakened East Jerusalem’s position as a regional center.
Discrimination in budget allocation and municipal services
Palestinians in East Jerusalem are required to pay taxes like any other inhabitant of the city, but do not receive the same services that others do. The Jerusalem Municipality deliberately avoids significantly investing in infrastructure and services in the Palestinian neighborhoods – including roads, pavements, water and sewage systems, schools and cultural institutions. This policy affects almost every aspect of Palestinians’ lives in East Jerusalem.
Around 650,000 Israeli settlers currently live in more than 130 settlements built since 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank and Jerusalem.
International law regards both the West Bank and East Jerusalem as occupied territories and considers all Israeli settlement-building activity there illegal.