Israel’s far-right sports and culture minister has taken credit for forcing the US National Basketball Association to remove the words “Palestine-occupied territory” from its website, despite the fact that the phrase describes the internationally recognised legal status of the Palestinian territories.
The row over the inclusion of the words in a pop-up menu provided by a third party in an online poll of favourite players is the latest example of the lengths Israeli ministers will go to challenge the accepted legal definition of Palestine’s status.
Of all the issues at the heart of the enduring conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, none is as sensitive as the status of Jerusalem. The holy city has been at the centre of peace-making efforts for decades.
Seventy years ago, when the UN voted to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, Jerusalem was defined as a separate entity under international supervision. In the war of 1948 it was divided, like Berlin in the cold war, into western and eastern sectors under Israeli and Jordanian control respectively. Nineteen years later, in June 1967, Israel captured the eastern side, expanded the city’s boundaries and annexed it – an act that was never recognised internationally.
Israel routinely describes the city, with its Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy places, as its “united and eternal” capital. For their part, the Palestinians say East Jerusalem must be the capital of a future independent Palestinian state. The unequivocal international view, accepted by all previous US administrations, is that the city’s status must be addressed in peace negotiations.
Recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital puts the US out of step with the rest of the world, and legitimises Israeli settlement-building in the east – considered illegal under international law.
In a letter to the NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, the sports minister, Miri Regev, called the Palestinian territories “an imaginary ‘state’” and said the listing was not in line with Donald Trump’s recent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
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SOURCE: The Guardian, Peter Beaumont