Mon, Jan 29, 2018 - Page 6 News List

John J. Tkacik Jr On Taiwan: Trump, Jerusalem and Taiwan

The Holy Land today, at first glance, has scant relevance for Taiwan. But President Donald Trump’s new Jerusalem policy last month has set me thinking.

The international legal statuses of Taiwan and Jerusalem both are grounded in the murky diplomatic arcana of post-war peace treaties. Both Turkey and Japan “renounced all right, title and claim” to lost sovereign territories, and the victors in both cases declined to reassign sovereignty to any successor state. The city of Jerusalem has spent a century in this legal limbo. While its current “unsettled” status dates only to 1947, in fact, Jerusalem has been without a “sovereign” since 1917 when it was seized by the British Army from the Ottoman Turks.

Jerusalem’s current indeterminate status grew out of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne wherein the Ottoman empire’s successor, the Turkish Republic “renoncer a tous droits et titres, de quelque nature que ce soit, sur ou concernant les territoires situes au dela des frontieres prevues par le present Traite... (renounces all right and title, of any nature whatsoever, over or related to the territories situated beyond the frontiers provided for in this Treaty...)”

Those “territories” mostly were reassigned to new sovereigns by international conventions; all except Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank. In November 1947, a United Nations resolution recognized the legal right of a Jewish state in Palestine alongside an Arab one. But in the same resolution, the General Assembly of the United Nations declared the City of Jerusalem a “corpus separatum” — to be administered under the UN as a special “body, separate” from the Arab and Jewish states. Alas, international law declares that thus must Jerusalem remain unto this day, absent a new international treaty.

Today, Jerusalem’s international status is somewhat different from Taiwan’s in that the United Nations considers it to be under UN sovereignty despite the fact that the UN neither followed up on its 1947 novel and unprecedented “separate body” proclamation nor ever moved to impose any administration on the city.

To the layman, unschooled in the arcana of international diplomacy, 70 years of unsettled legal status should be more than enough time to resolve ridiculous minutiae when the “facts on the ground” are solid. Jerusalem has functioned as Israel’s capital since 1948, and that’s that.

Indeed, President Trump, not known for his patience with legal fictions and diplomatic make-believe, broke with 70 years’ American foreign policy to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. He has ordered the US embassy relocated there. To be sure, the president’s UN Ambassador, Nikki Haley, pointed out that Jerusalem is a big place with several overlapping jurisdictions, including the Temple Mount and the Old City, and that the president does not presume to finalize the status of all Jerusalem. Ambassador Haley simply reminded all that the US had not taken a side in any final-status issues, including on the borders of Jerusalem itself.

With this rich legal history as a backdrop, President Trump’s historic decision on Dec. 6 to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate the American Embassy thither stunned the world. Seventy years of rock-solid diplomatic indeterminacy were upended by a self-assured US president who sees no use in US interests held prostrate by legal fictions.

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