Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned from Brussels on Monday with assurances that despite sharp European opposition to US President Donald Trump’s announcement about Jerusalem, the EU will not be initiating a peace proposal of its own, but will wait to see where the US proposals go.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, speaking at a news conference after Netanyahu met her and more than 20 EU foreign ministers earlier in the day, said that while some are talking about a European initiative or proposals, “we are not looking at multiplying initiatives.” These comments echoed what French President Emmanuel Macron said alongside Netanyahu on Sunday.
“There is no peace initiative, or attempt to restart peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, that can happen without engagement from the United States,” Mogherini said. But, she added, “there can be no illusion from the US side that a US initiative alone can be successful, because there is a need for an international and regional framework to accompany the beginning of negotiations.”
Mogherini said that the negotiations seem “far away at the moment,” and that the horizon and framework of the US plan still need to be determined.
There have been voices raised inside the EU in recent days saying that as a result of objections to US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the EU should take a more forceful role in the diplomatic process and initiate its own peace proposal.
Netanyahu, speaking alongside Mogherini earlier in the day before a breakfast meeting with the foreign ministers, urged the EU not to put forth a peace plan of its own, but rather to wait and see what the Americans will offer, and work with that.
“There is now an effort under way to bring forward a new peace proposal by the American administration,” he said. “I think we should give peace a chance. I think we should see what is presented and see if we can advance this peace.”
The significant differences between Israel and the EU over the Jerusalem issue were on clear display during the opening comments.
“You know where the European Union stands,” Mogherini said to Netanyahu. “We believe that the only realistic solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine is based on two states with Jerusalem as the capital of both, the state of Israel and the State of Palestine along the 1967 lines. This is our consolidated position, and we will continue to respect the international consensus on Jerusalem until the final status of the whole city is resolved in direct negotiations between the parties.”
Netanyahu responded saying that the root of the conflict with the Palestinians is not territory, but rather a refusal of the Palestinians to recognize a nation-state of the Jewish people within any boundary.
“You see this in the continual denial by the Palestinians of our right to exist as a Jewish state, and the denial of our history,” he said.
“For 3,000 years Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people … Yet that connection is denied in UN forums, UNESCO, and in laughable decisions that seek to deny history, and historical truth.”
Netanyahu said that peace was based on recognizing reality.
“Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, nobody can deny it,” he said. “It doesn’t obviate peace, it makes peace possible, because recognizing reality is the substance of peace, the foundation of peace.”
Netanyahu said it is time for the Palestinians “to recognize the Jewish state, and that it has a capital: it’s called Jerusalem.”
The prime minister said that he believes that in the future “ all, or most, of the European countries will move their embassies to Jerusalem, recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and engage robustly with us for security, prosperity and peace.”
Later in the day, without Netanyahu by her side, Mogherini took issue with that comment. “He can keep his expectations for others, because from the EU members states this move will not come,” she declared.
Netanyahu met with Mogherini for about 15 minutes, followed by a two hour breakfast with the foreign ministers.
At a briefing with Israeli reporters, Netanyahu said that at that meeting he said that Europe must ‘’stop pampering the Palestinians,’’ and that President Trump told the truth when proclaiming Jerusalem capital of Israel. Netanyahu rejected claims in the meeting that the settlements are obstacles to peace, saying that the ‘’true settlement for them is is Jaffa.”
He also said that while the EU is constantly raising with him the question of settlements, he asked them how often they raise with the Palestinians the question of their failure to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
The prime minister said that when the ministers inquired about whether Israel was willing to take steps to improve the life of the Palestinians, he responded that this was already being done in the fields of infrastructure development and the granting of job permits.
According to the prime minister, the discussion did not only focus on the Palestinians, but also on Iranian designs in the regions. He said that he told his interlocutors that the Islamic Republic’s hegemonic designs in the region will have ramifications for them as well.
He said Iranian efforts to transplant tens of thousands of Shi’a forces to Syria is not only bad for Israel, but something that will lead to negative reactions in the region “and the renewal of a religious war that will lead to a flow of people to Europe.”
Earlier in the day, at the photo opportunity with Mogherini, Netanyahu said that Israel was a force for stability in the Middle East, and as a result was acting as bulwark against forces that would threaten other states in the neighborhood, leading to a massive migration of refugees to Europe.
He also said that Israeli intelligence has prevented dozens of terrorist attacks, many of them on European soil.
“I believe that Israel serves a very important security function for the people of Europe in ways that are not always understood, but increasingly are appreciated by the relevant governments,” he said.
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>