TEL AVIV – Russia’s envoy to Israel is expected to announce the immediate recognition of Western Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in a meeting with senior Foreign Ministry officials in the coming days, making it the first country in the world to formally legitimize any part of the city as the capital of the Jewish state.
Recognizing Israeli sovereignty only over Jerusalem’s western part may nullify the Jewish state’s claim over the eastern parts of the city, which include Judaism’s holiest sites such as the Temple Mount and the Western Wall.
The meeting between the Foreign Ministry and Ambassador Alexander Shein comes after Moscow’s surprise announcement earlier in the month that it views “West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”
“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,” Moscow’s Foreign Ministry said in an April 6 statement.
Such a move is not likely to be accompanied by a transfer of Russia’s embassy from Tel Aviv to the capital. Moscow still remains committed to 1980’s UN Security Council Resolution 478 that censured Israel over its declaration that a united Jerusalem was its capital and called on all nations to transfer their embassies out of the city.
Russia’s commitment to “UN-approved principles for a Palestinian-Israeli settlement” also indicates accord with the recently passed Security Council Resolution 2334, which Israel’s government slammed as denying Jewish historical ties to Jerusalem.
For those reasons, Israel’s reaction to the April 6 announcement was subdued, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon remarking in the immediate aftermath that the ministry was “studying the matter.”
For their part, the Arab world’s reaction was also muted. This is especially surprising considering that President Donald Trump’s announcement that he would move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem outraged Palestinian officials and other Arab leaders across the Muslim world. One senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas hailed such a move as a “declaration of war” on all Muslims.
According to The Jerusalem Post, which first reported on the upcoming meeting with Shein, one reason for the lack of outcry at Russia’s announcement was its caveat that eastern Jerusalem would be a future Palestinian capital, something that Trump conspicuously omitted in his promise to move the embassy.
The Post also reported that Moscow’s dissatisfaction at the stagnant peace process was also behind the surprise announcement, and it aimed to send a clear message that the status quo – which includes Jerusalem’s status from 1947’s UN Partition Plan as an international city – was unsustainable.
The report said that going forward, Russian schools are expected to teach that Western Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and will include it as such in textbook maps.