The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

The EU and Jerusalem

For the last few days the EU has been battling over a Swedish proposal (Sweden currently holds the EU presidency) to make it official EU position that Jerusalem should be a shared capital of the two states. Now to most reasonable people this makes sense: after all the international community is backing a two-state solution, the city is divided and that division is recognized by international law, and it's clear that the symbolism of Jerusalem being the capital of both Israel and Palestine is important to the parties. Except of course the Israelis want it all to themselves, and have plenty of allies to counter this move.

Due to various pressures (see below) that laudable proposal has now been reworded:

The European Union backed away yesterday from demanding that East Jerusalem be the capital of a future Palestinian state after a proposal from the Swedish presidency ran into Israeli objections.

EU foreign ministers, meeting in Brussels, called instead for negotiations to settle Jerusalem's status and said they envisaged the city as the capital of two countries: Israel and any future Palestinian state.

The EU position was a compromise between Sweden and several other countries that wanted the 27nation bloc to make a firm commitment to the Palestinians on East Jerusalem, and other countries, such as the Czech Republic, Ger-many and Italy, that preferred a less overtly antiIsraeli stance.

Israel criticised the statement, saying it would "not contribute to the renewal of negotiations" and failed to acknowledge the Palestinian side was the "primary obstacle" to a peace deal.

Al Jazeera's Inside Story has a show on the EU and the Jerusalem question on Sunday:

(Ahmad Moor had thoughts on that exchange at Mondoweiss.)

How was it that the EU decided to water down a clear commitment to East Jerusalem as a Palestinian capital?

Alain Gresh writes that Paris is enabling Israeli policies, with Sarkozy lobbying on behalf of Netanyahu to water down the Swedish proposals. Their ground is that there should be recognition of Bibi's "positive" move on partial freeze of settlements, which is ridiculous — anything less than a total freeze is illegal and against the chief diplomatic initiative launched by Obama several months ago). (The Jerusalem Post also covered the French move.)

The United States also came out on this issue as typically mendacious:

Shortly after European Union Ministers announced their support for the division of Jerusalem between Israel and a future Palestinian state on Tuesday, the U.S. State Department issued a statement saying that the fate of Jerusalem should only be determined by Israel and the Palestinians in talks.

"Our position on Jerusalem is clear. United States policy remains unaffected and unchanged: As has been stated by every previous administration which addressed this issue, the status of Jerusalem, and all other permanent status issues, must be resolved by the parties through negotiations," the statement read.

Of course, the Swedish position was exactly what the PA wants to see, so it's not like the EU would be imposing a standard that both parties reject as implied. For the record here was the divide among some of the major EU states on original Swedish proposal:

For: Sweden, Britain, Ireland, Belgium.
Against: Italy, France, Holland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Romania, Poland.