At the end of the 19th century, Jerusalem had only about 20,000 inhabitants, and was an insignificant and largely abandoned city on the outskirts of the Ottoman Empire; but after the turn of the century, the Jewish population increased. Jerusalem at this time had never been the capital of any country other than Israel. In 1917, in the First World War, the city was liberated from the Turks by the British General Allenby. Then, after World War Two, in November 1947 the UN Partition Plan for the British Mandate of Palestine proposed that Jerusalem would be an international zone for 10 years, and that the city’s residents would then decide the city’s future in a referendum. The Arab party rejected the partition plan and attacked Israel in May 1948 to wipe out the newly founded state but were defeated.

East Jerusalem was occupied by Jordan from 1948 until Israel gained control of the entire city in 1967. In 1980, the Knesset passed the “Jerusalem Law” which declared a united Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel. The UN passed a resolution opposing the law, and Holland – one of the few countries that had an embassy in Jerusalem at the time – moved its embassy to Tel Aviv under pressure from the Arab world. Christians from Holland, among others, established the “International Christian Embassy” as an act of solidarity with Israel’s decision to choose Jerusalem as its capital.

Since Jordan lost control of both East Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1967 and then through a war forced the Palestinian movement PLO out of the country, Arab nationalist demands for a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital grew. The Islamic Conference with over 50 member countries decided in March 2016 that ‘the central issue’ for all the world’s Muslims is the Palestinian claim to Jerusalem. The Vatican, the EU, the UN and Russia have, based on political, religious and economic considerations, have supported this demand regarding the city’s final status. No other city in the world attracts the same interest from the international community.