Ukraine considers recognising Jerusalem as capital


Eastern Europe


Ukrainian President Zelensky (right) received his Israeli counterpart Isaac Herzog (left) in October 2021. Photo EPA

Ukraine could recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s „one and only capital” in the coming year, during a visit by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. This may be followed by opening a branch of its embassy in the city soon after.

Ukraine’s ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk, made this public last week during an event marking 30 years of official ties between Ukraine and Israel. Mr Korniychuk told The Times of Israel afterwards that recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would be a matter of months, not years.

However, he stressed that President Zelensky would have certain preconditions in the security and defence relationship between the two countries before proceeding to any formal steps towards the recognition of Jerusalem.

The envoy did not specify what preconditions that would be. Anything related to Ukraine's defence and security is highly sensitive at the moment as tensions are rising between Ukraine and Russia. Western analysts believe Russian planning is underway for a possible invasion of Ukraine, which might start as soon as early next year.

Promoting bilateral trade

Israeli news website Israel Hayom reported that the Ukrainian embassy in Jerusalem would be responsible for promoting bilateral trade and technological ties. The report did not mention any preconditions regarding defence and security issues, nor did other media outlets reporting on the issue.

It is not the first time the issue of recognition of Jerusalem is brought up between the two countries. Israel's President Isaac Herzog discussed the matter in October during a meeting with President Zelensky in Ukraine.

Except for Guatemala and the US, all countries have their embassy in Tel Aviv. Recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and relocating diplomatic offices to the city is highly sensitive, as the Palestinians also claim Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

The status of Jerusalem has been one of the major issues in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel's previous prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, stressed that Jerusalem is the „eternal and undivided capital of Israel.” However, some of his predecessors, like Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, have hinted at giving up the eastern part of Jerusalem to serve as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

If Ukraine actually decides to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem, this might spark widespread protests, not only among Palestinians, but also in Arab and Muslim countries around the world. Muslims regard Jerusalem as their third holiest city. Islamic tradition holds that the prophet Mohammed visited Jerusalem on a nocturnal journey.

Fierce criticism from EU

Such a move would most probably also draw fierce criticism from the European Union. Brussels maintains a policy of neutrality towards the status of Jerusalem. Any change of status should be subject to negotiations, according to the EU.

In December 2017, then-American President Donald Trump officially recognised Jerusalem as the Jewish state's capital and later moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This move triggered widespread protests. In response, the Palestinian Authority no longer regarded the US as a partner for peace and a major power broker in negotiations with Israel.



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