European Union rebuffs Israel’s overture on Jerusalem

‘No EU nation will follow Trump’s lead’

Updated - December 11, 2017 10:32 pm IST

Published - December 11, 2017 10:28 pm IST - Brussels

A demonstrator shouts slogans next to a Palestinian flag during a protest against the visit of Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Brussels, Belgium.

A demonstrator shouts slogans next to a Palestinian flag during a protest against the visit of Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Brussels, Belgium.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took his case to Europe to ask allies to join the United States in recognising 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.

Making his first ever visit to EU headquarters in Brussels, Mr. Netanyahu said President Donald Trump’s move made peace in West Asia possible “because recognising reality is the substance of peace, the foundation of peace”. Even Israel’s closest European allies have rejected the Trump administration’s reasoning behind the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and say that such a unilateral move risks further wrecking the chance for peace.

After a 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.

Position on borders

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.

Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek said of Mr. Trump’s decision: “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. Netanyahu, who has been angered by the EU’s search for closer business ties with Iran, said Europeans should emulate Mr. Trump’s move and press the Palestinians to do so too.

Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. 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,” he wrote in Al Jazirah , a Saudi newspaper.

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.

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