International News

EU rebuffs United State’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has urged the European Union to follow US President Donald Trump’s lead and recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but was met by a firm rebuff from EU foreign ministers who saw the move as a blow against the peace process.
“It makes peace possible because recognising reality is the substance of peace, the foundation of peace,” Mr Netanyahu said as he was greeted by European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini before a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.
“There is now an effort to bring forward a new peace proposal by the American administration.
“I think we should give peace a chance. I think we should see what is presented and see if we can advance this peace.”
Ms Mogherini, welcoming Mr Netanyahu on the first visit to the EU by an Israeli premier in 22 years, said the bloc would continue to recognise the “international consensus” on Jerusalem.
She repeated the Union’s commitment to a two-state solution and that it was in Israel’s interest to find a sustainable solution to its conflict with the Palestinians.
“You know where the European Union stands, we believe that the only realistic solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine is based on two states, with Jersusalem as the capital of both the state of Israel and the state of Palestine, along the 67 line, this is our consolidated position,” she said.
The EU, said Ms Mogherini, would step up its peace efforts and would hold talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas next month.
She also condemned attacks on Israel and on Jews elsewhere in the world, including in Europe.
Ms Mogherini said the EU and Israel were “friends and partners”.
But Israel’s closest European allies such as the Czech Republic warned Mr Trump’s decision was bad for peace efforts, while France insisted Jerusalem’s status could only be agreed in a final deal between Israelis and Palestinians.
Countries unlikely to follow Trump’s move
After the breakfast meeting between Mr Netanyahu and EU foreign ministers, Sweden’s top diplomat said no European at the closed-door meeting had voiced support for Mr Trump’s decision, and no country was likely to follow the United States in announcing plans to move its embassy.
“I have a hard time seeing that any other country would do that and I don’t think any other EU country will do it,” Margot Wallstrom told reporters.
Several EU foreign ministers arriving at the meeting reiterated the bloc’s position that lands Israel has occupied since the 1967 war — including East Jerusalem as well as the West Bank and Golan Heights, are not within Israel’s borders.
Israel’s position does appear to have more support from some EU states than others.
Last week, the Czech foreign ministry said it would begin considering moving the Czech Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, while Hungary blocked a planned EU statement condemning the US move.
But Prague later said it accepted Israel’s sovereignty only over West Jerusalem, and Budapest said its long-term position seeking a two-state solution in the Middle East had not changed.
Asked by reporters about Mr Trump’s decision to switch the US Embassy to Jerusalem on Monday, Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek said: “I’m afraid it can’t help us.”
“I’m convinced that it is impossible to ease tension with a unilateral solution,” Mr Zaoralek said.
“We are talking about an Israeli state but at the same time we have to speak about a Palestinian state.”
Mr Trump’s announcement also triggered a war of words between Mr Netanyahu and Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan, straining ties between the two US allies which were restored only last year after a six-year breach that followed the Israeli storming of a Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza.
Mr Erdogan said that the United States had become a partner in bloodshed with its decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“With their decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the United States has become a partner in this bloodshed,” he said at an event in Ankara.
“The statement by President Trump does not bind us, nor does it bind Jerusalem.”
Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former Saudi ambassador to the United States and veteran ex-security chief, published a strongly-worded open letter to Mr Trump on Monday denouncing the Jerusalem move.
“Bloodshed and mayhem will definitely follow your opportunistic attempt to make electoral gain,” the Prince wrote in a letter published in the Saudi newspaper Al-Jazeera.
“Your action has emboldened the most extreme elements in the Israeli society … because they take your action as a license to evict the Palestinians from their lands and subject them to an apartheid state.
“Your action has equally emboldened Iran and its terrorist minions to claim that they are the legitimate defenders of Palestinian rights.”
The Trump administration says it is working on a peace proposal being drawn up by Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt and Mr Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.
European leaders say the decision on Israel’s capital makes the need for a broader peace move more urgent.
“We’ve been waiting already for several months for the American initiative, and if one is not forthcoming then the European Union will have to take the initiative,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.