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Israeli PM urges EU to recognize 'reality'

December 11, 2017

The Israeli premier has claimed that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital "makes peace possible." The EU has criticized Washington's unilateral recognition, saying it undermines a political solution to the conflict.

Israeli premier, Benjamin Netanyahu, speaks at a press conference with the EU's top diplomat, Federica Mogherini
Image: Reuters/F. Lenoir

Netanyahu expects EU to follow US recognition

Speaking in Brussels, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday urged European governments to accept "reality" and recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital in the wake of US President Donald Trump's unilateral recognition.

Netanyahu claimed that to take such action "makes peace possible" between Israelis and Palestinians, adding that he expects the EU to follow Washington's lead on the Jerusalem question.

"There is now an effort to bring forward a new peace proposal by the American administration," Netanyahu said. "I think we should see what is presented and see if we can advance this peace."

Read more: Jerusalem: Three things to know

The EU's top diplomat Federica Mogherini reiterated the EU's position, saying Brussels will continue to recognize the "international consensus" on the question of Jerusalem, which stipulates the city's status must be decided between Israelis and Palestinians during peace talks.

Mogherini added that the EU will continue their efforts towards a political solution to the conflict and intend to host Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas next month.

The Jerusalem question

Trump's decision has triggered a wave of criticism within the international community for undermining the peace process aimed at providing a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The status of Jerusalem has been a key stumbling block during previous peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, in particular regarding the question of how to divide sovereignty and oversee holy sites.

While Israel regards Jerusalem as its capital, a majority of the international community rejects that claim, saying the city's status should be settled in peace talks with the Palestinians.

Missing: US-led peace initiative

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Monday said that while Netanyahu has repeatedly announced a new US-led peace initiative, European diplomats have received no information on such a plan, even when US State Secretary Rex Tillerson was in Brussels last week.

Read more: When Israelis started to talk about the occupation

"They've announced to us some kind of American initiative. We've been waiting for several months. If it's not the case, then perhaps the European Union should take the initiative, but it's too early to say," said Le Drian while in Brussels.

"Everyone knows that the result of the Middle East crisis goes through negotiations and the recognition of two states."

'Give peace a chance'

On Sunday, Netanyahu met with French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss the future of the peace process in Paris, the destination of his first official trip after the US recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Macron said that while he disapproved of Trump's decision on the basis that it is contrary to international law, he nonetheless urged Netanyahu to take confidence building measures by halting settlement activity in the West Bank.

Read more: Opinion: Jerusalem's declaration of pretendence

"Freezing settlement building and confidence measures with regard to the Palestinian Authority are important acts to start with," he said, referring to Israel's actions in the wake of Washington's recognition.

Standing next to Macron, Netanyahu said Trump's decision showed that it's time to "give peace a chance," a line ripped from The Beatles frontman John Lennon's song of the same name.

Condemn 'all attacks on Jews'

During a Friday morning press conference, the EU's top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, condemned violence against Jews and Israelis amid an uptick in aggressive rhetoric and protest actions witnessed in Europe after Trump's decision.

"Let me condemn in the strongest possible way all attacks on Jews everywhere in the world, including in Europe, and on Israel and on Israeli citizens," Mogherini said ahead of an informal breakfast with Netanyahu and the EU's 28 foreign ministers.

Read more: Rise of German far-right party causes alarm in Israel

Other European officials have also come out against anti-Semitism witnessed during protests over the weekend, including German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere.

"We don't accept when Jews or the state of Israel are disgraced in this way," Maiziere told the Monday edition of the Berlin-based daily Bild. Germany is "bound in a special way to the state of Israel and people of Jewish belief."

Unrest in the Middle East

ls/ng (Reuters, AFP)