western wall 224.88.
(photo credit: AP)
The European Union and the US are putting a crimp in Israel's celebration of 40 years since Jerusalem's reunification by not sending representatives to Monday's Knesset ceremony marking the occasion.
While the EU sent a letter to the Foreign Ministry making clear it would not participate in the Jerusalem Day event, the American absence is more one of default. US Ambassador Richard Jones is not expected to attend, but his government has not said why.
Either way, the snub has infuriated Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski, who in an unusually harsh statement said, "Whoever does not recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel also does not recognize the State of Israel."
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Lupolianski added that Israel needed to send an unequivocal message to the world, and not to capitulate on the issue.
"Israel is the only country in the world that allows other countries to boycott its capital and not have their embassies in the city," he said.
A spokesman at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv confirmed that the Knesset event was "not on the ambassador's calendar."
Jones is out of the country and scheduled to return to Israel on Monday evening.
Since Jones is abroad and his secretary is on vacation, it is likely - one official said - that he simply never received the invitation, which was only sent out by the Foreign Ministry on Thursday.
Nevertheless, Jones's nonattendance is perceived as a reflection of US policy, which is that since Washington believes Jerusalem's final status should be resolved in negotiations between Israel and Palestinians, attending de facto celebrations of the reunification of the city through force would contradict that policy.
The Foreign Ministry and the Knesset sent out invitations to the gala event at the Knesset last Thursday, and the next day received a response from the German Embassy, representing the EU, saying that the EU would not be attending. Germany currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU.
A spokesman for the EU delegation in Jerusalem said the decision not to take part in events celebrating the reunification of Jerusalem "is not only the position of the EU, but of broad sections of the international community, and is in line with our position regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict."
The EU and American position on east Jerusalem, in fact the position of most of the world, is that it is disputed - if not occupied - territory whose future will have to be determined in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Neither EU nor US representatives customarily take part in Jerusalem Day events.
All foreign embassies are in the Tel Aviv area.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev, who confirmed the letter from the German embassy, said the invitation was extended for an official state ceremony to "celebrate the unification of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the united capital of Israel, and we are disappointed and unhappy that some governments have chosen not to send representatives."
Israeli diplomatic officials said, however, they believed a number of other diplomats would attend the ceremony, although they were not willing to provide a list.
As to whether it was wise to invite ambassadors to the event to begin with, knowing that many of them would refuse to attend, one diplomatic official said in response, "It is an official state event."
Knesset Speaker and Acting President Dalia Itzik did not comment on the incident. Knesset sources said any attempt to lay the blame for the controversy on her doorstep because she extended the invitations should be met with skepticism, since "it is protocol, and not any whim of Dalia [Itzik]'s to invite the diplomats."
One diplomat who does plan to attend is the dean of the diplomatic corps, Ambassador Henri Etoundi Essomba of Cameroon.
Essomba told The Jerusalem Post that he could not say which other ambassadors would be attending because he had not consulted with his colleagues.
Another diplomat who will attend, "barring any last-minute unforeseen circumstance," is Georgian Ambassador Lasha Zhvania.
Swedish Ambassador Robert Rydberg, who is personally very pro-Israel, has to abide by the EU decision not to participate "because we are part of the EU and we agreed to that."
"Unfortunately not," said Czech Ambassador Michael Zantovsky, when asked about his plans. The reason, he explained, was that he was lecturing at the Interdisciplinary College, Herzliya. Informed that this was but one of several Jerusalem Day functions and asked whether he would be attending any of the others, he replied in the negative.
Asked if there was a diplomatic reason for this, Zantovsky responded: "I'm not going to comment on that one."
Chilean Ambassador Irene Cecillia Bronfman-Faivovich was much more direct. "No, I won't be there," she said. "It's a decision of the international community and a resolution of the United Nations - and I'm with them."
Both Zantovsky and Bronfman-Faivovich are Jews, as are some of the other ambassadors who will be absent.
Guatemalan Ambassador Moises Russ, who is also Jewish, was diplomatic to the hilt, explaining that he had a gallery dedication in Tel Aviv.
Then he said that he wasn't sure he'd received the invitation. Then he asked the time of the event and whether he would have to confirm, and finished the phone call by saying that he might call the Foreign Ministry in the morning.
The ambassadors' decisions to stay away from the celebration led to some angry responses from the country's politicians.
MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) laid primary responsibility on the shoulders of Germany's ambassador to Israel, Harald Kindermann.
Hasson called Kindermann's rejection "a disgrace" and added that if the ambassador could not honor the united capital of the Jewish nation, he could return to Berlin.
Hasson also wrote a direct letter to Kindermann, recalling the long relationship between Germany and Israel.
Israel is marking the 40th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem with a series of year-long events that begin this week as the country marks the annual Jerusalem Day.
Sheera Claire Frenkel and Etgar Lefkovits contributed to this report.