Quick Facts

“Just the Facts”—a collection of short and simple quick takes to help clarify key questions about the Jerusalem Story. For those intrigued to learn more, click the related Topic to dive deeper.

What was the status of Jerusalem before Israel was established?

Jerusalem was in Palestine, which was part of the Ottoman Empire from 1517 to 1917. The British occupied Jerusalem in  December 1917 and the country was under British military occupation (Occupied  Enemy Territories Administration, or OETA), from that point until July 1, 1920, when a civil administration was established. Britain was granted a Mandate for Palestine on April 25, 1920 at the San Remo Conference, and, on July 24, 1922, this Mandate was approved by the League of Nations. The British remained in Palestine for 30 years. After the UN General Assembly adopted the resolution to partition Palestine on November 29, 1947, including its plan to designate Jerusalem as an international corpus separatum, Britain announced the termination of its Mandate for Palestine, which became effective on May 15, 1948.

Before Israel was established, the UN proposed a partition plan, with Palestine being divided between a Jewish and an Arab state. In which of those two states was Jerusalem supposed to fall?

Neither. According to the UN partition plan for Palestine, announced November 29, 1947, within United Nations Resolution 181(II), Jerusalem was to be internationalized into a zone called a corpus separatum, Latin for “body, separated.” The term is a legal term for an area that has a special legal and political status different from that of its environment, and less than sovereignty or independence. This status was recommended due to the unique importance of the city to the three monotheistic religions and its historic importance. The area envisioned for this corpus separatum was quite a bit larger than the boundaries of the city at that time and even included areas of Bethlehem to the south as well as various outlying Palestinian villages to the west, north, and east. The plan specified that the “maximum local autonomy” should be granted to all “distinctive groups” living in this special zone. 

How did West Jerusalem become part of the State of Israel?

Despite the international plan for a corpus separatum for Jerusalem, during the war of 1948, after months of intensive fighting, Israel militarily seized much of the western side of the city and all its surrounding Palestinian villages in the western corridor leading to the city from the coastal plain. Having occupied the area, on August 2, 1948, Israel then unilaterally declared West Jerusalem to be Israeli-occupied territory. At the end of the war, a temporary Armistice Demarcation Line was drawn, with West Jerusalem occupied by Israel and East Jerusalem occupied by Jordan. On December 5, 1949, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion declared that “Jewish Jerusalem” was an organic, inseparable part of the State of Israel. He also declared the corpus separatum null and void. The UN, however, did not accede in such declaration. 

During and after the 1948 War, how many Palestinians of Jerusalem were forcibly expelled or chose to flee temporarily to safety?

From the city, the estimated number is 45,000 through the end of the war; from the 40 nearby villages, the estimated number is 28,256 for a total of 73,256 (or nearly 75,000) people. 

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Once the 1948 War ended, did Israel generally allow the return of the tens of thousands of Palestinian Jerusalemites and villagers who were forced or chose to leave?

No. Israel moved swiftly even while the war was still raging to settle Jews in their place and pass laws to ban their return. Many of these Palestinians from the western side of the city remain in the Eastern side today but cannot reclaim any of their land or property. 

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For how long was Jerusalem a divided city?

For 19 years, from 1948 to June 1967

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Have the borders of the city remained the same?

No, Israel unilaterally expanded the borders on June 27, 1967, and added about 70 sq km to the area of the city on its eastern side.

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What law applies in East Jerusalem?

Israel unilaterally applied its law and jurisdiction to the eastern side of the city within its newly expanded borders on June 28, 1967. While Israel considers this to be legal, international law does not and still considers East Jerusalem to be occupied territory.

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Of those, how many are Jews?

In 2019, 563,200, or 60 percent of the city’s population. Israeli data statisticians also combine this number with the number of “non-Arab Christians” (11,100) and “persons not identified by religion” (3,300) and thereby increase this percentage to 61.7, which they then round up to 62 percent. If the calculation is reversed, reflecting Jews and non-Jews, the percentage is 60.1 (Michal Korach and Maya Chosen, Facts and Trends 2021: The State of the City and Changing Trends (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Institute, 2021), 14–15.

How many are Palestinians?

In 2019, 358,800, or 38.4 percent of the city’s total population (936,400). This figure does not distinguish between citizens and permanent residents, or between citizens who were born in 1948 Israel and those who were born residents in East Jerusalem and applied for citizenship by naturalization. In addition, there are 11,100 “non-Arab Christians” and 3,300 “persons not identified by religion.” If these numbers are combined with the number of Arabs, the percentage of “non-Jews” in the city rises to 39.9. (Michal Korach and Maya Chosen, Facts and Trends 2021: The State of the City and Changing Trends (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Institute, 2021), 14–15. Note, however, that these data only include persons in the Israeli Population Registry; thousands more Palestinians are either unregistered or living with Palestinian Authority IDs in the city and therefore not tabulated. 

Is the number of Palestinians in the city cited by Israeli official data accurate?

No, because it only includes people who are registered in the Israeli Population Registry (i.e., those who have legal status). It does not include unregistered persons or persons holding Palestinian Authority IDs who live within the city limits for various reasons. This number is believed to approach the tens of thousands, meaning that the actual percentage of Palestinians and other non-Jews in the city is likely closer to 50 percent.

What is the status of Jews who live in Jerusalem?

Jews in Jerusalem, as in the rest of Israel, are either citizens, immigrants on a fast path to becoming citizens (within 30 days) by making aliya, or tourists. Jews receive citizenship by birthright. 

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What is the status of the Palestinians who live in Jerusalem?

Although this community is indigenous, Israel conferred upon it the status of permanent resident, a status usually granted to foreigners arriving from outside the country, in June 1967. At that time, Israel conducted a census and anyone who was enumerated in the census was entitled to apply for the status of permanent resident.

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Does the status of permanent resident transfer automatically from a Palestinian Jerusalemite to his or her spouse who does not have this status?

No. Permanent-resident status is non-transferable. The spouse with status must apply for it on behalf of the spouse without status through a lengthy and stringent process called family unification. However, under Israeli law, all family unification applications for Palestinian spouses have been frozen since 2003.

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Does the status of permanent resident transfer automatically from parent to child?

No. Under Israeli law, all newborn children must be listed on a parent’s ID within 30 days. Only upon turning 16 is a child allowed to apply for his own individual legal status and ID, and there is no guaranteed outcome. Stringent requirements must be met. 

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Can this status be revoked? And if so, for what reasons?

Yes. Permanent-resident status can be revoked for several reasons, including failure to prove that one’s “center of life” is within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem, alleged “disloyalty” to the state, and if a family member commits a security offense.

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Has Israel actually revoked the status of any Palestinian resident in the past?

Yes. It has revoked the status of nearly 15,000 residents since 1967 and it continues to do so to this day. 

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When an individual’s residency status is revoked, is the status of minor children affected?

If the individual has children registered on his or her ID, they all lose their status as well, and with it, their health and national insurance benefits and access to their education, among other things.

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If minor children are also vulnerable to revocation of status through a parent’s loss of status, how many individuals have actually been affected by this policy since 1967?

While exact numbers are unknown, estimates put this at nearly 77,000 to 90,000.

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When residency status is revoked, what are the consequences?

  • The individual can no longer live in or enter the city without a permit. 
  • The individual is given a short period of time (15 to 30 days) to leave the city or face arrest. 
  • The individual may lose access to family (if they have permanent-resident status) and lose access to basic benefits such as health insurance and education. 
  • Individuals who have no other passport become stateless. 
  • They cannot leave the country, have health insurance, pass through checkpoints (even internal ones in the West Bank), get a driver’s license, open a bank account, or register for educational programs, among other things.

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How many Palestinians in Jerusalem hold Israeli citizenship?

20,000—about 6 to 7 percent. But there are no precise data on how many of these are born citizens of Israel and how many are permanent residents of Jerusalem who applied for and received naturalized citizenship. 

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Can the Palestinian Authority operate within the Israeli-declared boundaries of East Jerusalem? West Jerusalem?

Under the Oslo Accords of 1993 and 1995, the Palestinian Authority (PA) is banned from operating anywhere within the Israeli-declared municipal boundaries of Jerusalem. Israel takes this ban extremely seriously and considers it a criminal offense if the PA sponsors any type of activity in the city, even a coronavirus clinic or a soccer game. This is in accordance with the Law Implementing Agreement on Gaza and Jericho Areas (1994), which took effect on January 1, 1995 and states explicitly:

Restriction on the Palestinian Authority

  1. The Palestinian Authority shall not open or operate a representative mission, and shall not hold a meeting, in the area of the State of Israel unless written permission for this has been given by the State of Israel or by someone authorized by it to do so;
  2. The Minister of Police may, by means of an order, prohibit the opening or operation of a representative mission of the Palestinian Authority, order its closure, or prevent the holding of a meeting, if permission has not been obtained in accordance with sub-paragraph (A).
  3. Orders referred to in sub-paragraph (B) shall be served, insofar as possible, on the owner of the premises, or the occupier, or the organizers, or whoever it seems to the Minister of Police is responsible for the activity which is the subject of the order; where it is not possible to serve the order as aforesaid, the Minister of Police shall give instructions for its publication in a manner which he shall establish; a notice concerning the giving of the order shall be published in the official gazette.

The likewise bans the Palestine Liberation Organization from operating within the Israeli municipal boundaries of Jerusalem and authorizes the Minister of Policy to take similar measures to prevent any such activity as those for the PA. 

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Can Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza access Jerusalem freely?

No. Palestinians holding PA ID cards (males aged under 55, females aged under 50) cannot enter Jerusalem without an Israeli-approved entry permit. 
Any Palestinian who has been blacklisted by Israel for any reason cannot obtain such a permit and therefore cannot enter Jerusalem.

Does Israel’s Separation Wall breach the Jerusalem municipal boundaries? In other words, do parts of it fall inside the city?

Yes. In fact 97 per cent of the route of the wall in the Jerusalem area and its close environs breaches the Green Line. In some places the wall moves inside of the municipal boundary; in other places it extends beyond (outside) it.

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Of the 140 km of the Separation Wall that encircle and snake through Jerusalem and its nearby area, how many overlap with the Israeli-declared municipal boundaries of the city?

0; the Separation Wall runs wholly apart from the Israeli municipal boundary for the most part. In some very small portions in Abu Dis, it runs close to the boundary for about 1.5 km, but otherwise there is no overlap. This reflects the reality that the Separation Wall established a wholly new definition of the city from that which previously had been unilaterally imposed by Israel in 1967, when it occupied East Jerusalem and expanded the boundaries.

Is it correct to say that the Separation Wall was designed to separate the West Bank from Jerusalem, and so it cleanly runs between the boundaries of the West Bank, on the one hand, and Jerusalem, on the other?

No, this is incorrect for several reasons. First, East Jerusalem is historically part of the occupied West Bank, so it cannot really be separated from it. Second, the route of the Separation Wall does not run cleanly along the Israeli municipal boundaries or any official boundaries. Third, the Separation Wall excises whole large Palestinian neighborhoods from the city, although they fall inside of the municipal boundaries. Additionally, the Separation Wall removes at least 150,000 Palestinian Jerusalemites from the city, because they live on the “other” side of the wall. 

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Has the Separation Wall blocked any Palestinian community from accessing its own city?

Yes, and in more than one way. Some Palestinian communities have been left outside the wall; their only way to access the city is through a single checkpoint. Some have been entirely engulfed by the wall, surrounded on all sides, or by the wall and then mountainous terrain (effectively engulfed). Some Palestinian communities that were historically part of the city and its environs have been left outside of both the municipal boundaries and the wall. In general, the wall winds within and without the jurisdiction of the Jerusalem municipality, slicing through Palestinian communities and separating them. In its wake, it creates multiple types of entrapped zones where Palestinians reside.

Can Palestinian permanent residents of Jerusalem vote for the (Israeli) Jerusalem municipal council?

Yes, Palestinian permanent residents can vote for the local municipal council. However, they cannot run for mayor and they cannot vote in national elections. 

How many Palestinian permanent residents of Jerusalem voted in the 2018 Jerusalem municipal council elections?

About 1 percent

How many Palestinians have been elected to the Jerusalem municipal council since Israel occupied the Eastern side of the city in 1967? Since 1948?

0; 0

Can Palestinian permanent residents run for the office of Jerusalem mayor?

By law, no. They can only vote for the municipal council. They also cannot vote in national elections. 

How many Palestinians have been elected or appointed as mayor in the areas of Jerusalem that have fallen within the State of Israel?

None. Israel expelled all Palestinians from West Jerusalem in 1948 and did not allow them to return. For those in East Jerusalem, Israel granted them permanent-resident status, not citizenship. Under Israeli law, permanent residents are not allowed to hold the office of mayor. Therefore, in West Jerusalem since 1948 (when it was incorporated into the State of Israel) and in East Jerusalem since 1967 (when Israel occupied the eastern half of the city), there has never been a single Palestinian mayor. 

Can Palestinian permanent residents of Jerusalem vote for or be elected to the Israeli Knesset?

No; as permanent residents, they are not allowed to do so.

Can Palestinian permanent residents of Jerusalem vote or be elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council?

In theory, yes, but in reality the state interferes with these elections to such an extent that it suppresses the vote.

Can Palestinian permanent residents of Jerusalem vote for the Palestinian president?

In theory, yes, but in reality the state interferes with these elections to such an extent that it suppresses the vote.