Netanyahu expects others to move their embassies too

“We are in contact with other countries that will declare similar recognition," said the Israeli leader at a digital diplomacy conference at the Foreign Ministry.

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December 8, 2017 11:19
4 minute read.
Netanyahu expects others to move their embassies too

A general view of Jerusalem shows the Dome of the Rock, located in Jerusalem's Old City on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount December 6, 2017.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Even as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that Israel is in contact with other countries about following the US lead and recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, numerous nations – primarily in the region and in Western Europe – issued statements slamming President Donald Trump’s historic decision.

“We are in contact with other countries that will declare similar recognition, and I have no doubt that the moment the American Embassy moves to Jerusalem, and even before, many more embassies will also move,” Netanyahu said at a digital diplomacy conference at the Foreign Ministry. He did not reveal with which states Israel was in contact.

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The Czech Republic announced on Wednesday evening that it recognizes west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, something Russia did last April. There were also numerous media reports that the Philippines has expressed interest in granting Jerusalem recognition as Israel’s capital.

Other than that, however, most comments coming out of foreign capitals regarding Trump’s proclamation were negative, and leading the chorus was EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

Trump’s announcement that the US recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “has the potential to send us backward to even darker times than the ones we are already living in,” she said on Thursday.

Netanyahu will be meeting with Mogherini in Brussels on Monday, along with the 28 EU foreign ministers who will be gathering there for a monthly meeting. This will be the first visit by an Israeli prime minister to the heart of the EU in 22 years, and it is coming at a time of sharp criticism of the Trump move by many of the EU countries.

Diplomatic officials noted that most of the condemnations were coming from Western, rather than Central or Eastern Europe, reflecting the reality that Western Europe is today Israel’s most difficult diplomatic playing field.

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Mogherini, in the second sharp statement against the Trump decision in as many days, said in Brussels that Trump’s announcement has a “very worrying potential impact.”

The EU, she said, “has a clear and united position: We believe that the only realistic solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine is based on two states, and with Jerusalem as the capital of both the State of Israel and the State of Palestine.”

Mogherini said that she and all the EU foreign ministers articulated their opposition to the move when they met on Tuesday with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Mogherini was scheduled to meet with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi on Friday. She noted that Jordan has “a very special role when it comes to the holy places,” and characterized King Abdullah II as “a very wise” man.

“He deserves and needs all our support in this difficult time, and I believe we should all listen to him very carefully,” she said. “Because what we truly need in these difficult times is wisdom, and to listen to the wise voices calling for peace and for peaceful reactions.”

The Foreign Ministry responded to Mogherini’s comments by saying they were “puzzling.”

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. REUTERS

Insistence that Jerusalem is not Israel’s capital is a “denial of an indisputable historical fact,” the ministry said in a statement. “Denial of this simple truth makes peace more distant by creating unrealistic expectations among the Palestinians. President Trump took a courageous and just step that advances the chances of peace because he spoke the truth.”

While condemnations of the move came from across the Muslim world, diplomatic officials said that the responses from many Arab countries were “measured” and predictable. Criticism also came in from Paris, Berlin, London and Beijing.

Russia, which was the first country in the world to recognize any part of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital when it recognized west Jerusalem in April, issued a statement saying that it will move its embassy to “west Jerusalem” only “after the Palestinians and the Israelis agree on all issues of the final status of the Palestinian territories.”

Canada made it clear that it had no intention of following in Trump’s footsteps.

Diplomatic officials said that Jerusalem was not concerned about those comments, and was focusing its energies on countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

At the Foreign Ministry conference, Netanyahu – who diplomatic officials said spoke to Trump three times in the last 10 days – again praised Trump for the move.

“President Trump has inscribed himself in the annals of our capital for all time,” the prime minister said. “His name will now be linked to the names of others in the context of the glorious history of Jerusalem and our people. I would like to thank him and the American Congress which, 22 years ago, provided a basis for the recognition until President Trump came and implemented this law.”

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