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Geopolitical Significance of Jerusalem in the Israel-Palestine Conflict

Geopolitical Significance of Jerusalem in the Israel-Palestine Conflict

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Jerusalem stands as a focal point in the Israel-Palestine conflict. It holds immense historical, religious, and geopolitical significance for both parties. Jerusalem is a city with profound religious, cultural, and historical significance.

Yet its geopolitical importance in the Israel-Palestine conflict cannot be overstated through a critical analysis of historical and contemporary developments.

This research shows Jerusalem’s geopolitical significance beyond religion, covering political power, territorial claims, and demographic balance. This research aims to deepen understanding of Jerusalem’s role in the Israel-Palestine conflict, informing policy for sustainable peace.


The city of Jerusalem is a highly contested territory that lies at the heart of the Israel-Palestine conflict, with a rich history spanning over 5,000 years. Jerusalem controls various empires and dynasties, including the historical Israelites, Romans, Ottomans, and British.

Today, Jerusalem is called by both Israelis and Palestinians as their rightful capital. They are making it a highly sensitive and complex issue in the peace process. Geopolitically, Jerusalem is a strategic location that is important to both parties. For Israelis, Jerusalem represents the eternal capital of the Jewish state, and the city’s Western Wall and Temple Mount hold profound spiritual significance.

Besides them, for Palestinians, East Jerusalem is the capital of a future Palestinian state. The city’s Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque stand as testaments to Islamic heritage and are the sites of the Prophet Muhammad’s night journey.

The modern geopolitical landscape of Jerusalem is shaped by the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, which resulted in the division of the city into East and West Jerusalem. Israel controlled West Jerusalem, while Jordan controlled East Jerusalem. In 1967, Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan during the Six-Day War and has since maintained control over the entire city.

However, the international community has not recognized Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, and the city’s status remains a highly contested issue. The geopolitical landscape of Jerusalem is further complicated by the presence of settlements and the separation barrier.

Israel has built numerous settlements in East Jerusalem, which are considered illegal under international law. The separation barrier, constructed in the early 2000s, has also been deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice and has had a devastating impact on Palestinian communities. In recent years, tensions in Jerusalem have escalated, with clashes between Israelis and Palestinians occurring frequently.

The city’s geopolitical landscape continues to be shaped by competing claims and tensions over access and ownership of holy sites, as well as the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Any resolution to the conflict must address the complex geopolitical landscape of Jerusalem and find a solution that satisfies both Israeli and Palestinian claims to the city.

The Israel-Palestine conflict is one of the most protracted and complex disputes in modern history, with Jerusalem emerging as a symbolic and strategic battleground. The town holds sacred sites for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, making it a deeply cherished and contested space.

Beyond its religious significance, Jerusalem’s geopolitical importance lies in its strategic location, historical heritage, and symbolic value as the capital of Israel and the desired capital of a future Palestinian state.


The historical background of Jerusalem’s geopolitical landscape is a complex and multifaceted narrative that spans thousands of years. The city’s strategic location at the Mediterranean and Middle East crossroads made it a prized possession of various empires and dynasties, including the ancient Israelites, Romans, Ottomans, and British.

In the ancient era, Jerusalem was the capital of the Kingdom of Israel and later the Roman province of Judea. The city’s significance extended beyond its political importance, as it was considered holy by Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike.

The Romans destroyed the Second Temple in 70 CE, and the city remained under Roman and later Byzantine rule until the Arab conquest in 638 CE. The Ottoman Empire ruled Jerusalem for nearly 400 years until the British conquest in 1917.

During World War I, the British government, in the Balfour Declaration, expressed support for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, which was then under Ottoman rule.

This declaration laid the groundwork for the modern Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Jerusalem was divided, with West Jerusalem coming under Israeli control and East Jerusalem under Jordanian rule.

The 1967 Six-Day War saw Israel capture East Jerusalem, which has remained under Israeli occupation since then. The international community has not recognized Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, and the city’s status remains a highly contested issue.

Jerusalem has a rich and turbulent history dating back thousands of years. Various empires and civilizations conquered and controlled it, including the Israelites, Babylonians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders, Ottomans, and the British.

The city holds profound religious significance for Jews, Christians, and Muslims, with each faith laying claim to its holy sites. The modern conflict over Jerusalem traces its roots to the 20th century, particularly the British rule in Palestine and the subsequent partition plan proposed by the United Nations in 1947.

The 1948 Arab-Israeli War led to the division of Jerusalem, with Jordan controlling East Jerusalem, including the Old City, and Israel controlling West Jerusalem. The Six-Day War in 1967 resulted in Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem, sparking further tensions and solidifying Jerusalem’s status as a contentious issue in the conflict.

This historical background has shaped the complex geopolitical landscape of Jerusalem, with competing claims to the city and its holy sites, ongoing occupation and settlement, and a deep-seated conflict that continues to this day.


The split of Jerusalem in 1948 primarily stems from the 1947 UN Partition Plan for Palestine. This plan aimed to divide British-mandated Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem being designated as an international city due to its significance to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

However, the plan was rejected by Arab leaders, and when Israel declared independence in May 1948, neighboring Arab states launched a military intervention, leading to the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

During this war, Jerusalem was divided between Israel and Jordan, with Israel controlling West Jerusalem and Jordan controlling East Jerusalem, including the Old City and its holy sites. This division persisted until the Six-Day War in 1967.

2. 1967 SIX-DAY WAR

The split of Jerusalem in 1967 was an event of the Six-Day War, a brief but significant conflict between Israel and neighboring Arab states: Egypt, Jordan, and Syria.

The war began in June 1967 when Israel launched preemptive strikes against Egypt’s air force in response to heightened tensions and military build-up by Arab states. Israel swiftly defeated the Arab forces and gained control over the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza Strip, West Bank (including East Jerusalem), and the Golan Heights.

The capture of East Jerusalem during the Six-Day War was particularly significant. Israel’s military victory allowed it to reunify Jerusalem under Israeli control, effectively ending the division that had existed since 1948. Shortly after the war, Israel annexed East Jerusalem and extended its municipal borders, declaring the city as its undivided capital.

However, this move has not been internationally recognized, with many countries considering East Jerusalem as occupied territory and advocating for its status to be determined through negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.


Jerusalem’s geopolitical significance extends beyond its religious importance, encompassing strategic, demographic, and symbolic dimensions. As the proclaimed capital of Israel, Jerusalem serves as the country’s administrative, cultural, and economic center.

Israel’s control over the entire city is a fundamental aspect of its national identity and security strategy. For Palestinians, East Jerusalem represents the capital of their future state, embodying their aspirations for self-determination and sovereignty.

The presence of Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, considered illegal under international law, further complicates the prospects for a two-state solution.

The status of Jerusalem has been a significant point of contention in peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine, with both sides unwilling to compromise on their claims to the city. Internationally, Jerusalem’s status is a subject of diplomatic debate and controversy.

The United Nations considers East Jerusalem to be occupied territory, and most countries do not recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, maintaining their embassies in Tel Aviv. The United States’ decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate its embassy there in 2018 sparked widespread condemnation and further inflamed tensions in the region.


Israel’s claim to Jerusalem as its undivided capital is deeply rooted in historical and religious narratives, particularly within Judaism. The city holds immense significance as the historical and spiritual center of the Jewish people, housing revered sites such as the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site.

Since the capture of East Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967, Israel has sought to consolidate its control over the entire city. This was formalized through the annexation of East Jerusalem and the extension of Israeli law, jurisdiction, and administration to the territory.

Israeli governments have consistently reinforced this claim through policies aimed at strengthening Jewish presence in East Jerusalem, including settlement expansion, infrastructure development, and cultural projects.


Conversely, Palestinians regard East Jerusalem as the capital of their envisioned state, alongside the West Bank and Gaza Strip. East Jerusalem holds significant cultural, religious, and historical importance to Palestinians, serving as the economic, political, and cultural heart of Palestinian life.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) views East Jerusalem as integral to realizing Palestinian national aspirations and statehood. The majority of the international community supports this stance, considering East Jerusalem’s occupied territory and refusing to recognize Israel’s annexation.

Palestinians seek sovereignty over East Jerusalem, controlling its governance, borders, and access to holy sites, such as the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.


Internationally, the status of Jerusalem remains one of the most debated issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Most countries, excluding the United States, don’t recognize Israel’s independence over Jerusalem, viewing its status as negotiable. UN Resolution 478 (1980) condemned Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, demanding the withdrawal of diplomatic missions.


The expansion of Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and surrounding areas since 1967 has significantly altered the demographic and territorial landscape, complicating efforts to achieve a two-state solution. International law considers Israeli settlements illegal, posing a significant obstacle to peace and the viability of a contiguous Palestinian state.

Settlement expansion has led to the displacement of Palestinian residents, the confiscation of land, and the fragmentation of Palestinian communities, undermining the prospect of East Jerusalem serving as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Demographic changes, coupled with infrastructure projects and restrictive policies, exacerbate tensions and deepen the entrenchment of the conflict, making the resolution of Jerusalem’s status and prospects for peace increasingly challenging.

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Jerusalem has many holy sites revered by multiple religions, including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Competing claims and tensions over access and ownership of these sites have been a perennial source of conflict.

The Old City of Jerusalem, in particular, contains sites of immense religious significance, such as the Western Wall, the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, in particular, is a focal point of contention.

Jews revere it as the site of the ancient Jewish Temple, while Muslims consider it the location of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Israel controls security, while the Islamic Waqf administers religious affairs. Tensions often flare over access to the compound, with conflicts and clashes between Jewish and Muslim worshippers and security forces.


Jerusalem has long been a spark for violence and conflict, owing to its religious significance, territorial disputes, and competing national aspirations. Acts of violence, riots, and clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian protestors are not uncommon occurrences.

Security concerns are particularly acute in East Jerusalem, where Palestinian neighborhoods often experience high levels of tension and unrest.

The construction of security barriers, checkpoints, and other infrastructure by Israeli authorities is a response to security threats but also exacerbates feelings of division and resentment among Palestinian residents. Similarly, Israeli security measures in and around holy sites can inflame religious sensitivities and spark violent reactions.


Efforts to resolve Jerusalem’s status through diplomatic means and peace negotiations have faced significant challenges. 

Fundamental issues include:

  • They claim sovereignty over the city.
  • The holy sites.
  • The end of borders between Israeli and Palestinian territories. Previous

Peace negotiations, such as the Oslo Accords and the Camp David Summit, have addressed Jerusalem’s status but have failed to produce a lasting resolution.

Core issues, including the city’s division, the status of holy sites, and residents’ rights, still need to be solved. Entrenched positions, historical grievances, and a lack of trust between the parties have hindered diplomatic efforts.

However, diplomatic initiatives, such as the Arab Peace Initiative and international mediation efforts, offer opportunities for progress.

These initiatives envision a comprehensive peace agreement that addresses the status of Jerusalem within the context of a two-state solution, with East Jerusalem serving as the capital of a Palestinian state and West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Such an agreement will require political will, compromise, and sustained international engagement.


The contentious nature of Jerusalem’s status stems from the competing claims and aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians. Israel views Jerusalem as its eternal and undivided capital, a stance reiterated by successive Israeli governments. In contrast, Palestinians see East Jerusalem, which

includes the Old City, as the future capital of a Palestinian state. This fundamental disagreement remains a significant obstacle to achieving a peaceful resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The international community has made numerous efforts to address the issue of Jerusalem. Over the years, various peace plans have been proposed, with Jerusalem’s status being a central topic of discussion. These plans aimed to find a way to share the city, guarantee religious access, and claim respect.

One of the most significant efforts was the Oslo Accords of 1993. It outlined a framework for negotiations. It also called for the formation of a Palestinian Authority in parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. However, these accords did not result in a final agreement on Jerusalem’s status, leading to continued tensions.

Jerusalem has remained a deeply sensitive and contentious issue throughout the negotiations and peace processes. The city’s intricate history, religious significance, and the emotions it evokes make it a highly challenging matter to resolve. Jerusalem is more than just a place; it embodies national identity, faith, and historical heritage, complicating compromise attempts.


The Arab-Israeli conflict over Jerusalem continues to manifest in ongoing challenges and developments. The issue of Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem remains a source of friction. Israel’s construction of settlements in this part of the city is a significant point of contention.

Palestinians and the international community view it as an obstacle to the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. Additionally, restrictions on Palestinian movement and residency in East Jerusalem persist.

Palestinians face problems in obtaining residency permits and face difficulties accessing holy sites in the city. These restrictions contribute to a sense of alienation and marginalization among Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem. Violence and clashes around religious sites, particularly the Al-Aqsa Mosque, have been current issues.

Tensions and violence around the mosque have impacted conflicts and protests in the city and beyond. They highlight the sensitivity of religious sites in the Jerusalem dispute. Jerusalem’s contentious history in the Arab-Israeli conflict underscores the enduring complexities and obstacles in the quest for peace.

The competing claims, historical problems, and deeply held religious connections to the city make Jerusalem a unique challenge as long as it remains at the heart of this conflict. The path to a lasting resolution will be fraught with complexities and obstacles.

Moreover, the quest for a peaceful and equitable solution holds the goals and concerns of both parties. It remains an ongoing and essential international endeavor. It requires a credit of the city’s shared heritage. We need to establish an inclusive arrangement that ensures freedom of worship, grants access to holy sites, and fosters peaceful coexistence.


In recent years, significant geopolitical shifts and regional dynamics have occurred. These have influenced the situation in Jerusalem and the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One notable development is the normalization agreements between Israel and some Arab states, such as Abraham.

Accords. While these agreements have improved Israel’s regional standing and security, they have also led to criticism from Palestinians, who view them as undermining their cause of a two-state solution.

Additionally, the Biden administration’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict differs from its predecessor, emphasizing a more balanced approach and a renewed commitment to a two-state solution. This shift could impact future negotiations and diplomatic initiatives regarding Jerusalem’s status.

Jerusalem’s status remains one of the most significant hurdles to gaining a dual solution. Also, competing claims to sovereignty over a city, particularly East Jerusalem, pose a fundamental challenge to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Settlement expansion, demographic changes, and entrenchment of Israeli control over East Jerusalem confuse efforts to establish Palestinians.

The fragmentation of Palestinian territories undermines the territorial contiguity necessary for a working Palestinian state. The lack of trust between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, coupled with the absence of negotiations, perpetuates the status quo. Despite the challenges, there are potential pathways to peace that could address Jerusalem’s significance in talks.

A complete peace agreement would likely entail mutually acceptable compromises on Jerusalem’s status. Likewise, it would also involve preserving the city’s cultural and ancient heritage. International mediation efforts, supported by the United States and the European Union, could facilitate negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

Confidence-building measures, including motions of kindness and mutual sacrifices, could help build trust and create a drive for important negotiations.

Civil society project movements are pivotal in improving dialogue, understanding, and healing between Israeli and Palestinian society. Moreover, Track II diplomacy also significantly contributes to these efforts. Jerusalem’s current status presents problems and challenges to achieving a two-state solution and lasting peace.

Yet, with political will, managing international engagement, and a commitment to discussion, potential ways exist to address Jerusalem’s importance. These ways can advance towards a conflict agreement.

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