Background on East Jerusalem

Published: 
1 Jan 2011
Updated: 
3 Apr 2017

Since East Jerusalem was annexed in 1967, the Israeli government's primary objective in Jerusalem has been to create demographic and geographic circumstances that would thwart any future attempt to challenge Israeli sovereignty over the city. Practically speaking, this means increasing the number of Jews and reducing the number of Palestinians living in the city.

At the end of 2014, there were 849,800 people living within the municiapl borders of Jerusalem, according to the following breakdown: 533,900 Jews and various others (63%) and 315,900 Palestinians (37%). A total of 497,670 people, or about 61% of all residents, live on land that was annexed to Israel in 1967: 40 percent of them are Jews and various others, and 60 percent are Palestinians. With Palestinians having a higher demographic growth rate (2.7% in 2014) than Jews (2.2% in 2014), Israel has used various methods to further its goal:

  • Physically isolating East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, in part by building the Separation Barrier;
  • Discriminating in land expropriation, planning and building, and demolition of houses;
  • Revoking residency and social benefits of Palestinians who stay abroad for at least seven years, or who are unable to prove that their center of life is in Jerusalem;
  • Unfairly dividing the budget between the two parts of the city, with harmful effects to infrastructure and services in East Jerusalem.

Israel's policy gravely infringes the rights of residents of East Jerusalem and flagrantly breaches international law.

East Jerusalem is occupied territory. Therefore, it is subject, as is the rest of the West Bank, to international humanitarian law provisions on occupied territory. The annexation of East Jerusalem breaches international law, which prohibits unilateral annexation. Consequently, the international community, including the United States, does not recognize the annexation of East Jerusalem.