Akunis to Austrian minister: 'Austria will not divide Jerusalem'

Austria's minister of science, research and economy was scheduled to meet his Israeli counterpart in Jerusalem, but cancelled due to the proposed meeting's location in east Jerusalem.

By DANA SOMBERG
December 5, 2015 20:15
2 minute read.
MK Ophir Akunis

MK Ophir Akunis . (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

 
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An encounter between Austrian-Israeli ministerial counterparts was cancelled due to the east Jerusalem location of the proposed meeting, The Jerusalem Post's sister publication Ma'ariv reported Friday.

Austria's minister of science, research and economy, Reinhold Mitterlehner, was scheduled to meet Science, Technology and Space Minister Ofir Akunis next week to discuss further cooperation between the two respective governments in regards to scientific collaboration.

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But the meeting was cancelled once Akunis insisted their discussion take place at the Science Minister's office in the Kiryat Menachem Begin government compound located beyond the Green Line in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of east Jerusalem, Ma'ariv added.

Mitterlehner countered by offering to relocate the talk to the Israeli Knesset or the nearby King David Hotel, both located in west Jerusalem. However, Akunis was firm on the position and demanded that the meeting "be held in the office of the Minister of Science or nowhere."

Akunis added that "Austria will not divide Jerusalem. With all due respect to the Austrian Minister of Science, united Jerusalem, the capital of Israel for over 3,000 years, stands above any consideration."

"The government complex in the east is an integral part of greater Jerusalem," he said. "If I agreed to accept the demands of the guests it would be as though I would agree to divide Jerusalem, which will never happen."

The event highlights the continued fraying of relations between the Jewish state and Europe. Last month, The European Union's executive approved new guidelines for labeling products from Israeli settlements on occupied land, a decision Brussels says is technical but which many in Israel say is unacceptable discrimination.

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And Friday saw Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom accuse Israel of "extrajudicial executions" against Palestinian terrorists since a wave of violence hit the Jewish state over two months ago.

When asked by a Swedish parliamentarian why she refused to condemn Palestinian acts of violence against Israelis, she replied that while she did not condone terrorism and that Israel did have a right to self-defense, “at the same time the [Israeli] response doesn’t need to be extrajudicial executions or disproportionate force.”

Wallstrom’s remarks were first reported by the Swedish daily Expressen and then widely disseminated by Hebrew-language media outlets in Israel.

In general, European member states refuse to hold meetings in disputed territories east of the Green Line.

Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this article.

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