Just in time for the 50th anniversary of the unification of Jerusalem, The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Thursday, announcing they view Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. But there is a big catch that makes the offer entirely unappealing, and perhaps impossible to accept.
The announcement appeared on the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. It began as a generic statement concerning their position on the stalled negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis, but concluded with the startling statement that they view West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Moscow is deeply concerned about the situation in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Palestine and Israel have not held political negotiations for nearly three years, and the situation on the ground has been deteriorating.
Moscow reaffirms its support for the two-state solution as an optimal option that meets the national interests of the Palestinian and Israeli people, both of whom have friendly relations with Russia, and the interests of all other countries in the region and the international community as a whole.
We reaffirm our commitment to the UN-approved principles for a Palestinian-Israeli settlement, which include the status of East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state. At the same time, we must state that in this context we view West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
— MFA Russia ???????? (@mfa_russia) April 6, 2017
Jerusalem Post reported that Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said Israel is “studying the statement.” Russia’s Ambassador to Israel Alexander Shein has announced he plans to meet with Israeli officials to discuss this issue. There have not been any announcements that Russia intends to move its embassy.
This would make Russia the first country to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish State. There is presently only one embassy in Jerusalem to Israel: The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ). Though Jerusalem was designated as an international city according to the 1948 League of Nations partition plan, seven countries and the Vatican have embassies to the Palestinian Authority in Jerusalem, without creating a corresponding embassy to Israel in West Jerusalem.
This Russian announcement seems to upstage US President Donald Trump, who has yet to make good on his campaign promise to move the US embassy Jerusalem. Unlike the Russians, Trump did not make his promise to Israel dependent on concessions to the Palestinians.
Accepting the Russian conditions would require changing Israeli law. Israel established Jerusalem as its capital according to the boundaries established after the 1967 Six-Day War when it enacted the Jerusalem Law in 1980. The UN Security Council responded by voting to rescind the Israeli law, declaring it null and void. The US abstained from the voting. An amendment in 2000 specified the jurisdiction of the law to include East Jerusalem. The amendment also prohibited transfer of authority to a foreign body, for example an international regime.