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Jerusalem Day: Why the Holy City is at the crux of the peace process

Today is Jerusalem Day in Israel, the anniversary of the day in the 1967 war when Israel took the Old City and East Jerusalem from Jordan. More than 40 years later, Jerusalem remains one of the largest hurdles to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel insists Jerusalem is its ‘undivided and eternal’ capital while Palestinians insist on securing a capital in East Jerusalem. Here are three reasons why Jerusalem is so important to both sides.

Israelis wave national flags during celebrations marking Jerusalem Day at the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest prayer site, in Jerusalem's Old City on June 1.
Nir Elias/Reuters
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One capital city wanted by two nations

Jerusalem already functions as Israel’s capital. The majority of the country’s government buildings are located in West Jerusalem, the part of the city that remained under Israeli control between its independence and the 1967 war. But in Judaism, Jerusalem is considered the “eternal and undivided capital” of the Jewish nation, and many Israeli politicians – from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat – have insisted on a unified national capital that includes East Jerusalem.

Palestinians, however, claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. The area was a part of Jordan between 1948 and 1967 and is predominantly Arab. Palestinians were so expectant that their capital would be established there they they began building a parliament building in the East Jerusalem suburb of Abu Dis in 1997, although it was abandoned when the second intifada broke out three years later. The unfinished project is now separated from Jerusalem by Israel’s concrete security barrier, as are the people it was supposed to represent.


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