We understand that talk about Palestine, Israel, and their capital cities can be a sensitive topic. It is an issue that brings out passionate feelings for many. The purpose of this post is not to inflame those feelings, but to simply get a better understanding of the different points of view surrounding the capital of Palestine. We will attempt to answer the question, what is the capital of Palestine, knowing that this is a tricky question that depends a lot on perspective.
What is the Capital of Palestine?
Much debate surrounds the official capital of Palestine. Indeed, it’s a tricky question that cannot be answered without also talking about Israel. These two countries have a deeply-intertwined history, and determining the capital of Palestine depends a lot on who you ask.
What is Ramallah?
Many people consider Ramallah to be the capital of Palestine, as this is where the country’s government operates from. Located to the north of Jerusalem, Ramallah is situated in the West Bank region of Palestine. This city currently serves as the de facto administrative capital of Palestine.
Today, Ramallah is home to the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), an interim self-government body that governs the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank. It was created in 1994 as a result of the Oslo Accords, a set of agreements between the Government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization.
However, the question of Palestine’s capital isn’t so simple. While the PNA operates from Ramallah, Palestine has asserted in the past that Jerusalem is their rightful capital. This contention stands at odds with Israel, who also claim Jerusalem as their capital.
Today, the status of Jerusalem remains one of the main issues in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Let’s explore the history of this dispute a bit more.
Ramallah vs. Jerusalem
The British Army occupied Ramallah in December 1917 during World War I. Following the end of the war, the British Mandate of Palestine was created in 1920. Ramallah was designated as a mandate territory and remained under British control until 1948.
During this period of British rule, both Arabs and Jews in the region would grow to resent British policies. Violence began to increasingly flare up throughout Mandate Palestine. Ramallah would ultimately become a Palestinian hub during “The Great Revolt”, a nationalist uprising by Palestinian Arabs against the British, lasting from 1936 – 1939.
In November, 1947, the UN General Assembly announced a plan to end the British Mandate and separate the territory into an Arab State and a Jewish State. As part of the partitioning, Jerusalem was to be given a special international status, and was to be placed under the administrative authority of the United Nations.
However, the Palestinian Arabs and other Arab states rejected this plan on the grounds that it was unjust. This rejection brought around another wave of violent conflicts between the Jewish and Arab communities of Mandatory Palestine. Israel eventually declared its independence in 1948, leading to the beginning of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
The conflict would come to an end in 1949. The West Bank was ultimately occupied by Jordan, including Ramallah and East Jerusalem (which includes Jerusalem’s Old City, and some of the holiest sites of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam).
However, in 1967, the Six-Day War would break out between Israel and neighboring Arab states. Israel would re-capture land lost during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, including the West Bank (including Ramallah) and all of Jerusalem.
With the signing of the Oslo Accords, the PNA was given both civilian and security responsibilities over parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. They would establish their administrative center in Ramallah, and this is why Ramallah is commonly considered to be the capital of Palestine.
What About East Jerusalem?
East Jerusalem was excluded from the Oslo Accords. East Jerusalem is the common term that Palestinians use when discussing the role of Jerusalem as their capital. Currently, East Jerusalem encompasses all the eastern districts of Jerusalem, a majority of northern and southern districts, and the Old City of Jerusalem.
Both Palestine and Israel have proclaimed this ancient holy city as their true capital. The Palestinian National Authority maintains the stance that Jerusalem should be an open city with no partitions – but under Palestinian control. However, the Israeli government passed the “Jerusalem Law” in 1980, declaring the ancient city as their “eternal and indivisible” capital.
The UN considers East Jerusalem to be Palestinian territory that is currently occupied by Israel, while the United States recently acknowledged Jerusalem as the sole capital of Israel. Even today, it seems no one can really come to a consensus on the issue.
So what is the capital of Palestine? Well, as we’ve seen, it depends a lot on the viewpoints of who you are asking.
On Sporcle quizzes, both “Ramallah” and “East Jerusalem” are acceptable answers for the capital of Palestine.