Which Countries Have Jerusalem Embassies?
By: Ivey Noojin/Arab America Contributing Writer
In December 2018, the United States made a landmark decision to acknowledge the existence of Israel and move its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. On May 14, 2018, the government of the U.S. held a ceremony to mark the opening of the embassy after months of global protest. However, this ceremony was only the official start of U.S. and Israeli relations, since building an embassy will take years.
Two days after this ceremony on May 16, Guatemala opened an embassy in Jerusalem as well. This decision was not surprising to many, since Guatemala was the second country to recognize Israel as a state 70 years before. On May 21, a week later, Paraguay joined this movement and declared its embassy will relocate to Jerusalem as well.
Other countries, such as the Czech Republic, Romania, and Honduras, are expected to follow and open Jerusalem embassies also.
The Conflict Between Israel and Palestine
This issue all started when Europe wanted to create a separate country for Jews. For centuries, Jews have been experiencing persecution due to their religious beliefs, and many countries had forcefully converted them or had them expelled from their borders. Therefore, in 1799, Napoleon from France publicly offers Palestine as a homeland to get Jews out of Europe entirely. Centuries later, during the division of mandates of the Middle East between France and Britain, this idea of expulsion from the continent was at the forefront of the discussions. In the twenty-first century, this is still an issue and is the reason for the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
The History of Jerusalem Embassies
However, this is not the first time that countries have had representation in Jerusalem. Beginning in the 1950s, there have been several embassies there. The list includes:
- Democratic Republic of Congo (which was known as Zaire at the time)
- Ivory Coast
- Costa Rica
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
Many of these embassies moved out of Jerusalem after the Yom-Kippur War of 1973 when Egypt and Syria attacked Israel over the land they lost to the Jewish occupation. In 1980, Israel declared that Jerusalem was the true capital of its state, not Palestine, and the UN asked for countries with embassies there to withdraw.
Responses to U.S. Decision
However, the decision of the U.S. was colossal, creating violent protests around the Gaza Strip. The violence is just one reason why multiple countries have publicly refused to send their embassies to Jerusalem and condemn President Trump’s decision.
When the United States held a ceremony for the official opening of an embassy in Jerusalem on Monday, May 14, 2018, protests broke out at the Palestinian-Israeli border. 58 Palestinians were killed, making it the deadliest day of cross-border violence in Gaza since the 2014 war with Israel. These protests also ended with 2,700 wounded.
Protests will continue as the official building of the embassy starts.
Much fewer countries are supportive of President Trump’s decision and are against the idea of the U.S. removing its embassy, and none of the supporters included the Great Powers.
The UN submitted a motion in 2017 against the U.S.’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Here is a list of some of the countries that supported this motion:
- Saudi Arabia
- United Kingdom
Most countries in Europe are against the decision of President Trump. Also, many nations in the Middle East and Northern Africa do not support the idea of an embassy in Jerusalem.
With more countries acknowledging Israel as the true leader of the land, instead of an occupier, more natives of Palestine will flee. There is already 1.5 million people in refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, and the Syrian Arab Republic. Jordan is the only country that has granted most Palestinian refugees full citizenship rights. Refugees in Syria have the same rights as citizens of the state, but they are still not considered citizens. However, most refugees are denied basic human rights in Lebanon. They cannot participate in 20 professions and do not have access to several social services. In Lebanon, Palestinians also have limited access to health and educational services, and therefore they rely heavily on The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
The UNRWA also has established several refugee camps in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. However, the blockade on the Gaza Strip, imposed by Israel, has severely limited the organization’s ability to help the community. In the West Bank, military checkpoints and closures choke the UNRWA’s ability to maintain their camps, leading to poor services and an overflowing residency.
Palestinians have also fled to other countries where they are not considered refugees. It is estimated that 50,000 Palestinians live in Egypt, but they have no permanent residency rights and cannot register as refugees. Iraq also used to have around 34,000 people fleeing Israel; however, after the U.S. invaded Iraq, militant groups have targeted and killed over half of the Palestinian community in the country. Therefore, there has been an increase in Palestinians in Syria, who neighbors Iraq, because of this persecution.
Will more embassies be stationed in Jerusalem? Only time will tell.
Check out Arab America’s blog here!