By Charles Bybelezer, Media Line—
Pope Francis, currently on a visit to Morocco, declared with King Mohammed VI that Jerusalem was the “common patrimony” of Christians, Muslims and Jews. The pope thereby threw his hat into the ring ahead of the upcoming release of US President Donald Trump’s much-hyped Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. “The specific multi-religious character, the spiritual dimension and the particular cultural identity of Jerusalem…must be protected and promoted,” the pontiff and Mohammed said in a joint statement. Israel considers Jerusalem its “undivided and eternal” capital but grants members of all faiths freedom of access to the city’s holy sites.
According to the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, Jerusalem was intended to be a corpus separatum administered by an international body rather than to be given to one or the other side. However, during the 1948 war, Jordan conquered the eastern half of the city while the western part came under Israeli control. The Israel Defense Forces captured the eastern part during the 1967 conflict and Israel annexed it in a move rejected globally. Notably, even Trump has claimed on multiple occasions that his December 2017 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital did not pre-judge the future status of the city, which should be determined only through peace negotiations. Francis has made improving Christian-Muslim relations a central tenant of his papacy. In February, he became the first-ever pontiff to visit a Sunni Gulf state by traveling to the United Arab Emirates.