Ben-Gurion Rejects International Status for Jerusalem David Ben-Gurion campaigning for Mapai in 1949. Photo: Public Domain

December 5, 1949

Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion declares in a Knesset speech that “Jewish Jerusalem is an organic, inseparable part of the state of Israel” and that Israel rejects any attempt by the United Nations to declare Jerusalem, Israel’s “eternal capital,” an international city outside Israeli sovereignty.

Ben-Gurion speaks amid U.N. debates about how to implement the part of Resolution 181 (israeled.org/united-nations-approves-partition-plan) from November 1947 that calls for establishing an international jurisdiction around the city of Jerusalem, separate from the envisioned Jewish and Arab states. But the prime minister argues that because the United Nations did nothing when Arab armies invaded in May 1948, and “our valiant youngsters risked their lives for our sacred capital no less than our forefathers did in the time of the First and Second Temples,” the U.N. plans for Jerusalem are null and void.

He says that trying to remove Jerusalem from Israel will do nothing to bring peace to the Middle East. To the contrary, “Israelis will give their lives to hold on to Jerusalem, just as the British would for London, the Russians for Moscow and the Americans for Washington.”

With the War of Independence over, Israel is moving its government offices to the parts of Jerusalem under its control because, just as it was from the time of David, the city is the capital of the Jewish state, Ben-Gurion notes. He also reiterates Israel’s support for free access to Jerusalem’s holy places and willingness to see international supervision of them. He doesn’t mention that Jordan has control of most of those holy places.

Ben-Gurion’s speech has no impact on the United Nations: The U.N. General Assembly within days votes overwhelmingly to place Jerusalem under international jurisdiction.