'Don't call J'lem Palestinian capital'
By HERB KEINON
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Article's topics: European Union, Foreign Ministry, Jerusalem, Sweden
Sweden's attempts to insert language into an EU resolution on the Middle East that would recognize east Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent Palestinian state harms European efforts to play a significant part in mediating between Israel and the Palestinians, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement issued Tuesday morning.
European Union foreign...
European Union foreign affairs and security chief policy Javier Solana talks to Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt prior to the start of an EU Foreign Affairs Council of ministers.
The statement followed a Haaretz report that the Swedes were pushing a resolution that will be discussed at a monthly meeting of EU ministers next week in Brussels that would officially call for the division ofJerusalem.
According to the Foreign Ministry statement, there is nothing new in the resolution.
However, as one Israeli diplomatic official pointed out, what is maddening from an Israeli view point is that the call for east Jerusalem to be the capital of an independent Palestinian state is not coupled with a call to recognize west Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
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"This disrupts the balance," the official said, adding that the resolution is being pushed forward by the Swedes, who hold the rotating presidency of the EU, without any prior coordination with Israel.
The official pointed out that since taking over the presidency in July, Swedish Foreign Minster Carl Blidt has not visited the country once. He was scheduled to come in September, but his visit was cancelled following the angry Israeli reactions to the Aftonbladet newspaper article that accused Israeli soldiers of harvesting Palestinian organs.
The Foreign Ministry statement said that after the significant steps that Israel has taken to enable the renewal of negotiations with the Palestinians, a reference to the recent declaration of a moratorium on new housing starts in the West Bank, "the Europeans should be pressuring the Palestinians to return to the negotiation table. These types of moves being led by Sweden bring about the opposite result."
EU stance on Jerusalem harms peace talks
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent
The Foreign Ministry on Tuesday lashed out at a European Union plan to call for the division of Jerusalem between Israel and the Palestinians, saying such a move would harm the chances of renewing Middle East peace negotiations.
EU foreign ministers are expected to issue an official call next week for Jerusalem to be divided, in order to serve as the capitals of both Israel and a Palestinian state. A draft document authored by the current holder of the rotating EU presidency, Sweden, and implying that the EU would recognize a unilateral Palestinian declaration of statehood, has been obtained by Haaretz.
"The process being led by Sweden harms the European Union's ability to take part as a significant mediator in the political process between Israel and the Palestinians," said a statement by Israel's Foreign Ministry.
"After the important steps taken by the government of Israel to enable the resumption of negotiations with the Palestinians, the European Union must now exert pressure on the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table. Steps like those being led by Sweden only contribute to the opposite effect," said the statement.
Jerusalem is waging a diplomatic campaign to keep the EU from issuing such an endorsement, but diplomats close to the EU deliberations believe it is almost inevitable.
The EU foreign ministers are scheduled to meet on December 7 for a two-day meeting in Brussels on the peace process, after which a statement outlining the body's Mideast policy is expected.
The Swedish draft represents the first official EU articulation of a solution for one of the core issues of the final-status arrangement between Israel and the Palestinians.
The document expressed the EU's concern over the stalemate in the peace process and calls for the immediate renewal of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in accordance with a prescribed timetable. The goal, it states, is "an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable state of Palestine, comprising the West Bank and Gaza and with East Jerusalem as its capital."
The draft refers directly to the situation in East Jerusalem, calling on "all parties to refrain from provocative actions" and stating the EU Council "has never recognized the annexation of East Jerusalem. If there is to be a genuine peace, a way must be found to resolve the status of Jerusalem as capital of two states. The Council calls for the reopening of Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem in accordance with the road map. It also calls on the Israeli government to cease all discriminatory treatment of Palestinians in East Jerusalem."
The document deals only briefly with Israel's announcement of a 10-month moratorium on construction in settlements across the West Bank: "The Council takes note of the recent decision of the government of Israel on a partial and temporary permanent freeze and expresses the hope that it will become a step towards resuming meaningful negotiations." Israel's removal of checkpoints also receives only cursory mention: "Many checkpoints and roadblocks remain in place to protect settlements."
On the issue of borders, the document states that the EU will not accept any changes made by Israel to the 1967 borders unless they have PA approval. The EU, it says, welcomes PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's proposal of a unilateral declaration of statehood and would "be able, at the appropriate time, to recognize a Palestinian state."
Israeli diplomats have been following the Swedish initiative for several weeks. Israel's Brussels-based ambassador to the EU, Ran Kuriel, sent several messages to Jerusalem last week accusing Sweden of leading the union on a "collision course" with Israel. Kuriel wrote that Britain and France support the Swedish position, while Germany, Spain and Italy are disinclined to side with Israel on the matter.
Senior Foreign Ministry officials said the belief is widespread across the foreign policy echelon that Sweden is advancing an explicitly "anti-Israel" line, rendering Europe "irrelevant" to the peace process.
European diplomats privy to the negotiations said that although changes favorable to Israel had been made to the draft, there is virtually no chance of preventing the EU from calling for the division of Jerusalem. They said they believe the EU statement will help Palestinians return to negotiations with Israel, as it gives them guarantees of a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem even though Israel has not frozen construction there.
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