What is the Status Quo?

The Status Quo in the context of Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories is a collection of laws, rules and historical traditions that have governed the division of ownership, assuring that people from all faiths have access to their holy sites in Jerusalem, beginning with a decree issued by Ottoman Sultan Osman III in 1757, which preserved the division of ownership and responsibilities of various sites and established an agreement among Christians, Muslims and Jews that nothing was to be changed. Doing so would upset the order of who was responsible for maintaining the religious sites. Subsequent decrees issued in 1852 and 1853 reaffirmed the provisions of the 1757 decrees. A British civil servant, L.G.A. Cust, prepared a document, The Status Quo in the Holy Places, in 1929 that has become the standard text on the subject.

The Status Quo is not a product of domestic legislation of the State of Israel. It is an international obligation expressly accepted by the State of Israel at the time of its creation by the United Nations. To seek to change the Status Quo, Israel must involve the Churches and the international community, i.e., the United Nations and interested international parties such as the Vatican and other Orthodox Patriarchates, among many other stakeholders.

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