Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday he expected Europe to follow the United States in recognizing Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s capital, but the EU’s diplomatic chief said there was no change to its stance on the holy city.
Netanyahu said the controversial announcement by US President Donald Trump — which prompted diplomatic alarm and street protests across the Islamic world — had “put facts squarely on the table”.
As he arrived for talks in Brussels, Netanyahu said he expected “all or most” European countries would follow the US — but the 28-nation bloc’s foreign policy head Federica Mogherini said its position remained that Jerusalem should be a capital for both Israelis and Palestinians.
The EU expressed alarm last week at the US decision, but Netanyahu said Trump had simply stated facts by acknowledging that Jerusalem had been the capital of the Israeli state for 70 years and of the Jewish people for 3,000 years.
“It doesn’t obviate peace, it makes peace possible, because recognising reality is the substance of peace, it’s the foundation of peace,” he said in a statement alongside Mogherini ahead of a breakfast meeting with EU foreign ministers.
“I believe that all or most of the European countries will move their embassies to Jerusalem, recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and engage robustly with us for security, prosperity and peace,” Netanyahu said.
The Jerusalem decision upended decades of US diplomacy and broke with the international consensus. Mogherini last week warned it could take the situation “backwards to even darker times”.
Mogherini said the EU — the Palestinians’ largest donor — would stick to the “international consensus” on Jerusalem. She reiterated the EU’s stance that “the only realistic solution” for peace is two states — Israel and Palestine — with Jerusalem as the capital of both and the borders returned to their status before the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.
And she pledged to step up efforts with the two sides and regional partners including Jordan and Egypt to relaunch the peace process.
Netanyahu has praised Trump’s decision as “historic” and he explained on Sunday that Jerusalem “has always been our capital and it has never been the capital of any other people”.
Both Israelis and Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital and previous peace plans have stumbled over debates on whether and how to divide sovereignty or oversee holy sites.
Mogherini also condemned attacks on Israel — after Netanyahu took aim over the weekend at what he called Europe’s “hypocrisy” for condemning Trump’s statement, but not “the rockets fired at Israel or the terrible incitement against it”. “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.
Netanyahu pointed to a new US peace initiative as a possible way forward.
“There is now an effort underway to bring forward a new peace proposal by the American administration. I think we should give peace a chance. I think we should see what is presented and see if we can advance this peace,” he said.
Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner has been working with a small team to develop a new US proposal to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, but it is not clear what progress he is making.
EU not unified
Most EU members, including the bloc’s biggest countries, have expressed alarm over the Trump administration’s policy shift.
But the 28-member bloc is not unified on the issue — Hungary, Greece, Lithuania and the Czech Republic in particular favour warmer ties with Israel.
And last week Hungary broke ranks to block a joint statement from the EU that was critical of Washington’s Jerusalem shift.
Trump’s announcement on Wednesday has been followed by days of protests and clashes in the Palestinian territories. Four Palestinians were killed either in clashes or from Israeli air strikes in retaliation for rockets fired from the Gaza Strip.
Tens of thousands have also protested in Muslim and Arab countries, including Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan and Malaysia.
Macron was also asked if France would attempt to launch another peace initiative to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict following failed efforts in the past.
“There’s a desire by the Americans to mediate which remains and I don’t want to condemn it ab initio (from the beginning),” he said.
“We need to wait for the next few weeks, the next months to see what will be proposed.”
Fifth day of protests in ME
The Middle East saw the fifth day of protests on Monday over US President Donald Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, while further global condemnation followed the deeply controversial move.
During a visit to Cairo, Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced Trump’s decision as “destabilising” while calling for a resumption of long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian talks.
Hezbollah, which fought a war with Israel in 2006, organised the demonstration in Beirut’s southern suburbs that saw tens of thousands chanting “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!”
Further protests were held in Iran and the Palestinian territories. In Tehran, a few hundred diehard Iranian conservatives rallied against Israel and said Trump had hastened its demise with his decision.
In Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, dozens of Palestinians threw stones at Israeli soldiers, who fired tear gas and rubber bullets in return in the latest such clash. “We came here against Trump’s decision and we want to send a message that Jerusalem is and will stay our capital, and we will stay to defend it,” one protester in a black ski mask told AFP.
There were also low-level clashes in Hebron and the Gaza Strip.
Some 27 Palestinians were wounded by live fire or rubber bullets throughout the day, the Red Crescent said. Palestinian demonstrations have declined in number and intensity since reaching a peak on Friday, but there are concerns they will again increase later this week.
Tens of thousands have also demonstrated in a range of Middle Eastern and Muslim nations.