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November 11, 2021 10:54 am

Do Palestinians Really Just Want ‘East Jerusalem’?

avatar by Emanuel Miller


Remains of a 2000-year-old building recently excavated near the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
Photo: Yaniv Berman / Israel Antiquities Authority

It is common practice for news outlets to use boilerplate copy — written text that can be reused in new contexts or applications without significant changes to the original.

In the context of clashes or violence in Jerusalem, the media often add a line or a paragraph at the end of reports such as these:

(Associated Press, June 7, 2021)


(Reuters, June 7, 2021)

Readers are so used to seeing these words, that they are liable to skim over them, and from a perspective of media bias, these sentences seem inoffensive and even-handed.

But are they really?

The Palestinian Authority’s Territorial Aims

While Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has indeed spoken of establishing an “independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital,” he has repeatedly contradicted himself and revealed his reluctance to give up on the goal of seizing all of the holy city.

In 2009, Abbas’ Fatah faction adopted a position paper that ruled out compromise on the future status of Jerusalem, saying it would prefer to “sacrifice victims until Jerusalem is ours.”

A full decade later, Abbas’ position had not changed. In a video uploaded to Abbas’ Facebook page in August 2019 and translated by MEMRI, Abbas is heard saying, “Those who are foreign to this land have no right to it. … Jerusalem is ours whether they like it or not.”

When his words triggered members of the crowd to chant the slogan, “To Jerusalem we march, martyrs by the millions,” Abbas responded, “We shall enter Jerusalem; millions of fighters!”

While Abbas publicly pays lip service to the idea of two states alongside one another, his rhetoric in Arabic more often than not betrays his desire to bring all of Jerusalem under Palestinian control.

In July 2018, the Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that Abbas declared Jerusalem is the Palestinians’ “eternal capital” and there could be “no compromises.” Similarly, he expressed support for Palestinian women harassing Israeli soldiers at a press conference in March 2020, saying it would help “achieve our independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.”

No mention was made of “East Jerusalem.”

Abbas’ words are echoed by other Palestinian politicians, advisors, and religious leaders, who have called for the “liberation” of Jerusalem and beyond.

In August 2020, one of Abbas’ advisors, Mahmoud Al-Habbash, said in a television interview that “Jerusalem and Palestine” will be liberated from the occupation and belong exclusively to the Palestinians. “Palestine and Jerusalem will belong to us alone,” he said.

Referring to Israel’s existence as “occupation,” he added, “This occupation will disappear, like all those before it.”

As fighting raged between Israel and Hamas in May 2021, Musa Al-Rajabi, deputy secretary of Fatah’s Shuafat and Beit Hanina branch (two neighborhoods in Jerusalem) told PA television that, “Jerusalem will not agree to being divided in two. Jerusalem is ours. Jerusalem is Arab, Islamic, and Christian,” Palestinian Media Watch reported.

Such sentiments are commonplace for Fatah officials. For example, Fatah Central Committee member Tawfiq Tirawi posted a video to his Facebook profile in February 2020, in which he claimed, “our Palestinian land is from the River to the Sea … that is all Waqf land.”

The PLO’s chief negotiator, the late Saeb Erekat, told the official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida in June 2017, “We are working to end the occupation, to realize the sovereignty of the State of Palestine whose capital is Jerusalem.”

Perhaps most remarkably, in April 2019 Erekat recalled on PA television what he said to Abbas during negotiations with Israel in 2008: “Olmert wants to give you 20 sq. km. more, so that you could say [to Palestinians]: ‘I got more than the 1967 territories.’”

Yet that generous offer was declined — more evidence of the Palestinians being less interested in a return to the pre-1967 lines, and truly concerned with the total erasure of Israel.


The official Hamas position has been clear from its very outset. The Hamas Charter was issued on August 18, 1988. The document is comprised of 36 separate articles, all of which promote the basic Hamas goal of destroying the State of Israel through jihad.

The following excerpts illustrate Hamas’ perspective on the two-state solution:

The Islamic Resistance Movement is a distinguished Palestinian movement, whose allegiance is to Allah, and whose way of life is Islam. It strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine. (Article 6)

Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it. (Preamble)

The land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf [Holy Possession] consecrated for future Muslim generations until Judgment Day. No one can renounce it or any part, or abandon it or any part of it. (Article 11)

These declarations have been regularly backed up by further statements over the years. One recent example of Hamas’ unwillingness to countenance the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel can be found in the words of senior Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Zahar, who said, “This land is not suitable for a two-state solution. It’s either/or” in an interview that aired on Al Jazeera TV (Qatar) on May 25, 2021.

Referring to Israel’s existence as an “occupation,” Al-Zahar added, “Either the occupation remains forever, an option that has become completely inconceivable — or this occupation will be removed, and each [Israeli] will go his way” to places like America and Russia.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad

Similar statements were made by other Palestinian factions. For example, in November 2019, Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Khader Habib said in an address that aired on Alghad TV (UAE/Egypt), that Israel will disappear and Jerusalem and Palestine belong to the Palestinians. “Your [Zionist] entity will disappear, and we will remain, Allah willing. Palestine belongs to us. Jerusalem belongs to us.”

Though smaller than Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad is actually an older organization. It is most prominent in Gaza, where it regularly partakes in rocket attacks on Israel. It is committed to the destruction of Israel through jihad and the creation of an Islamic Palestinian state from the river to the sea.

Islamic Jihad’s founding charter publicly declares its “Jihad against the Jewish existence in Palestine” and reminds followers that “Jihad is the obligation of every Muslim and must be carried out immediately, regardless of the formation of an Islamic state.”

Religious Leaders

In a February 2020 address at the Al-Aqsa mosque, Sheikh Muhhamad Ayed said, “Announce [the establishment] of the Caliphate! March towards Jerusalem! March towards Al-Aqsa [mosque] and liberate it! Retaliate against them and set out for Rome, and then set out for the White House … that means the entire world, and we will conquer it all and rule it through the justice of Islam!”

In May 2021, Imam Yousef Makharzah gave a sermon that aired on Hizb ut-Tahrir’s Al-Waqiyah TV (Lebanon), telling the assembled crowds that “The Jews will not even be a part of our consideration, because they are too lowly, too ignoble, too base, and too disgraceful. … Rome shall be conquered, Allah willing.”

His words were similar to those of Palestinian sheikh Abu Hanifa Awda, who said “Jerusalem is where the banners of the Caliphate will flutter” in another address at the Al-Aqsa Mosque that was uploaded to the internet on June 2, 2019.

A January 2020 address at the Al-Aqsa Mosque by Palestinian political researcher Sheikh Ahmad Al-Khatwani backs up this perspective: “Palestine cannot really support the existence of two states. The reality in Palestine — in terms of geography and population — is such that there cannot be two states here. There will either be a Jewish state or an Islamic state. We have no space for any state other than an Islamic state.”

In some cases, religious leaders talk openly in terms that Western observers would consider akin to that of ISIS followers, with references to the establishment of a Caliphate.

As such, the oft-repeated line that “Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state” is gravely misleading and not grounded in reality. Though this statement has been repeated countless times, it simply does not reflect the facts, and — irrespective of intention — journalists who recycle this line are essentially betraying the trust of their audiences by fundamentally misrepresenting the Palestinians’ true intentions.

The results of this misinformation are very real: public and international pressure builds on Israel to make peace with a “peace partner” that wants to wipe the Jewish state off the map.

Emanuel Miller is a writer-researcher for HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias, where a version of this article first appeared.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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