In Depth

What is the capital of Israel?

Dozens killed at Gaza border as US embassy opens in Jerusalem

It’s a simple question - what is the capital of Israel? - but the answer depends on who you ask. For the Israeli government, it’s straightforward: Jerusalem.

Since the annexation of East Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War gave Israel complete control of the Holy City, the Israeli government has been seeking formal international recognition of a united Jerusalem as the country’s capital.

However, Palestinian nationalists consider East Jerusalem the rightful capital of an independent Palestine and a crucial plank of any future peace negotiations.

To avoid inflaming tensions or compromising future negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian territories over the city's status, the US and other countries have had their embassies in Tel Aviv.

Until now.

Yesterday, the US reversed nearly seven decades of American foreign policy by officially moving its embassy to Jerusalem. Donald Trump announced the move in December, formally recognising the city as Israel’s capital.

The UN General Assembly delivered a forceful response to Trump’s decision at the time, voting 128-9 in favour of a resolution condemning the move.

However, at the embassy’s official opening on Monday, Trump said in a video message: “Israel is a sovereign nation with the right to determine its own capital, but for many years we failed to acknowledge the obvious.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also declared Jerusalem the “eternal, undivided” capital of Israel. “The truth is that Jerusalem has been and always will be the capital of the Jewish people, the capital of the Jewish state,” he said.

Other countries used to have embassies in the city, but many moved after Israel passed a law to make Jerusalem its capital in 1980. Following Trump's lead, Guatemala will now move its embassy to Jerusalem this week, and Paraguay will follow suit later this month.

Yesterday’s opening coincided with the state of Israel's 70th anniversary - and the deadliest day of violence in Gaza since 2014. At least 58 Palestinians were killed and 2,700 wounded by Israeli troops, according to Palestinian officials.

Protests have been taking place for weeks but “deaths soared” yesterday, says the BBC: “Palestinians see this as clear US backing for Israeli rule over the whole city, whose eastern part they claim.”

A “day of victory” for Israel became a “day of rage” in Gaza, said Time magazine.

One protester, a 37-year-old construction worker, told reporters: “Israel and the US must understand that no one can change the status of Jerusalem for us. It will always be our capital and they can never succeed in making it anything else.”

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