New US embassy may be in Jerusalem — but not in Israel

The former Diplomat Hotel, now part of the United States consular compound in Jerusalem, was built on disputed territory. (photo: Thomas Coex / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images)

The site of the US diplomatic compound is in occupied territory that has never been formally incorporated into Israel.

By Isabel Kershner | The New York Times | Mar 7, 2018

“Much more important than what the State Department says, it is what their actions say. You don’t build an embassy in territory that is not sovereign to Israel.”
— Eugene Kontorovich, director of international law at the conservative Kohelet Policy Forum in Jerusalem

In two months, the United States plans to open a new embassy to fulfill President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

There’s just one problem: The embassy may be in Jerusalem, but it may not be fully in Israel.

The diplomatic compound that will serve as the American Embassy until a permanent site is found lies partly in a contested zone known as No Man’s Land.

No Man’s Land encompasses the area between the armistice lines drawn at the end of the 1948–49 war and was claimed by Jordan and Israel. Israel won full control of it in the 1967 war, so the United Nations and much of the world consider it occupied territory.

The State Department has avoided taking a clear position on the matter but relies on the fact that Israel and Jordan had informally divided the contested enclave.

The provisional embassy site, in the Arnona neighborhood, “has been in continuous Israeli use since 1949,” the department said in a statement last week. “It is today a mixed residential-commercial neighborhood.”

The Palestinians are less equivocal.

“No Man’s Land is occupied territory,” said Ashraf Khatib of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Negotiations Affairs Department. “Any permanent status for that territory should be part of a final status negotiation.”

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