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Netanyahu rebuffed as EU rejects Trump's Jerusalem move

By Sheetal Sukhija, Palestinian News.Net
12 Dec 2017, 10:18 GMT+10

BRUSSELS, Belgium - After U.S. President Donald Trump recognized occupied Jerusalem as Israel's capital, triggering widespread violent protests in the Middle East, now Europe has firmly rejected the move. 

Following Trump's decision, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took his case to Europe to ask allies to join the United States.

However, on Monday, Netanyahu's bid was met by a firm rebuff from EU foreign ministers, who saw the move as a blow against the peace process.

In his first ever visit to EU headquarters in Brussels, Netanyahu said Trump's move made peace in the Middle East possible "because recognizing reality is the substance of peace, the foundation of peace."

Last week, after Trump announced that the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, he broke with decades of U.S. policy and international consensus that the ancient city's status must be decided in Israeli-Palestinian talks.

The Trump administration's decision however triggered a wave of protests that soon turned violent and drew harsh criticism from across the world, even though the U.S. administration has argued that it remains committed to the peace process.

U.S. has argued that its decision does not affect Jerusalem's future borders or status and that any credible future peace deal will place the Israeli capital in Jerusalem.

The government has argued that ditching old policies is needed to revive a peace process frozen since 2014.

However, even Israel's closest European allies have rejected the logic.

EU has argued that recognizing Israel's capital unilaterally risks inflaming violence and further wrecking the chance for peace.

European leaders have said that the decision on Israel's capital makes the need for a broader peace move more urgent.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said, "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."

After Netanyahu held a meeting with EU foreign ministers, Sweden's top diplomat said no European at the closed-door meeting had voiced support for Trump's decision, and no country was likely to follow the United States in announcing plans to move its embassy.

Margot Wallstrom told reporters, "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."

Further, many other EU foreign ministers that arrived 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.

However, Israel did receive support from some EU states after the Czech foreign ministry said last week that it would begin considering moving the Czech embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

However, Hungary blocked a planned EU statement condemning the U.S. move.

Later, Prague 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.

Later on Monday, Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek said of 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. We are talking about an Israeli state but at the same time we have to speak about a Palestinian state."

Israel annexed east Jerusalem after capturing it in a 1967 war and considers the entire city to be its capital. Palestinians meanwhile want east Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent state.

Meanwhile, torn by clashes, violence subsided in some parts of the Muslim world.

Violence that had broke out between Palestinians and Israeli security forces in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem in which scores of Palestinians were wounded and several killed saw a drop and by Monday morning, violence appeared to have subsided.

On Monday, Netanyahu argued that Europeans should emulate Trump's move and press the Palestinians to do so too.

He said, "It's time that the Palestinians recognize Israel and also recognize the fact that it has a capital. It's called Jerusalem."

Later in the day, he said he had told the Europeans to "stop pampering the Palestinians."

Adding, "I think the Palestinians need a reality check. You have to stop cutting them slack. That's the only way to move forward towards peace."

Meanwhile, a day after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Israel a "terror state," Netanyahu responded by saying he would accept no moral lectures from Erdogan who he accused of bombing Kurdish villages, jailing opponents and supporting terrorists.

On Monday, Erdogan took aim directly at Washington over Trump's move and said, "The ones who made Jerusalem a dungeon for Muslims and members of other religions will never be able to clean the blood from their hands. With their decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the United States has become a partner in this bloodshed."

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