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United Nations Security Council Resolution 478
Status of Jerusalem

August 20, 1980

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According to UN General Assembly Resolution 181 of 1947, Jerusalem was to be an internationalized area under UN supervision, with the partition of Mandatory Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. However, first the Arabs, and later the Jews, objected to internationalization, and the UN never tried to implement its international regime. It did continue to treat Jerusalem as though it was a "Corpus Separatum" in various documents  such as UN General Assembly Resolution 303  which reaffirmed the international status of Jerusalem, and UN Secretariat papers relating to holy places (see  Palestine Holy Places and Palestine Holy Places: Implementation of UN Resolution 194.

Jordan conquered and annexed East Jerusalem, including the Holy Places of the Old City, evicting the Jewish population of the Old City and destroying all but one of the synagogues that had been built there. Israel managed to hold on to the primarily Jewish, western part of Jerusalem, with most of the Arab residents of West Jerusalem and its suburbs either fleeing to East Jerusalem or being forced to leave. Israel made West Jerusalem its capital and seat of government, though de facto, until 1967 most government offices were in Tel Aviv.

In the 1967 Six day war, Israel conquered the entire West Bank including East Jerusalem. In 1968, Israel created a much enlarged Jerusalem municipality including all of western Jerusalem, all of eastern Jerusalem and a surrounding area, totaling about 125 square kilometers. Administrative measures declared that Israeli law and jurisdiction held in all parts of the united municipality.

In 1980, a private measure by right wing MK Geula Cohen proposed a basic law (Basic Law: Jerusalem) that would declare that united Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and that the government should give priority to the development of Jerusalem. There was nothing in the law that stated  that Israel had annexed Jerusalem, nor did the Basic Law: Jerusalem reiterate that Israeli jurisdiction held in all parts of the city, nor did it demarcate any boundaries. Nonetheless, it caused a storm of protest resulting in two U.N. Security Council resolutions, not vetoed by the United States, which protested against changes in the status of Jerusalem. The first of these resolutions, (UN Security Council Resolution 476) was passed before the law was passed in the Israeli parliament. The second, Security Council Resolution 478, below, was passed after the law was passed in Israel. It condemns attempts to change the status of Jerusalem. Both resolutions insist, contrary to the earlier UN resolutions, that the status of East Jerusalem is not different from the status of the remainder of the West Bank, and that they constitute occupied territories. 

Following this resolution, nearly all countries that had maintained embassies in Jerusalem moved them to Tel Aviv. Israel, to emphasize its determination to control Jerusalem, built or enlarged neighborhoods along the borders of the expanded municipality.

Ami Isseroff (December 5, 2009)

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Source: domino.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/dde590c6ff232007852560df0065fddb?OpenDocument


      Security Council
S/RES/478 (1980)
20 August 1980

Resolution 478 (1980)
of 20 August 1980

The Security Council,

Recalling its resolution 476 (1980),

Reaffirming again that the acquisition of territory by force is inadmissible,

Deeply concerned over the enactment of a "basic law" in the Israeli Knesset proclaiming a change in the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, with its implications for peace and security,

Noting that Israel has not complied with resolution 476 (1980),

Reaffirming its determination to examine practical ways and means, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Charter of the United Nations, to secure the full implementation of its resolution 476 (1980), in the event of non-compliance by Israel,

1. Censures in the strongest terms the enactment by Israel of the "basic law" on Jerusalem and the refusal to comply with relevant Security Council resolutions;

2. Affirms that the enactment of the "basic law" by Israel constitutes a violation of international law and does not affect the continued application of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since June 1967, including Jerusalem;

3. Determines that all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and in particular the recent "basic law" on Jerusalem, are null and void and must be rescinded forthwith;

4. Affirms also that this action constitutes a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East;

5. Decides not to recognize the "basic law" and such other actions by Israel that, as a result of this law, seek to alter the character and status of Jerusalem and calls upon:

(a) All Member States to accept this decision;

(b) Those States that have established diplomatic missions at Jerusalem to withdraw such missions from the Holy City;

6. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Security Council on the implementation of the present resolution before 15 November 1980;

` 7. Decides to remain seized of this serious situation.

Adopted at the 2245th meeting by 14 votes to none, with 1 abstention (United States of America).



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