Barkat to EU foreign affairs chief: Jerusalem must stay united

Barkat to EU foreign aff

In response to the Swedish proposal currently being debated by European Union foreign ministers in Belgium that would declare east Jerusalem the capital of a future Palestinian state, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on Monday sent an official letter to the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton, in which he insisted that Jerusalem remain united "as the eternal capital of the State of Israel." "Throughout the history of the world, there is not one important city that was divided that functioned successfully," Barkat wrote. "They either reunited or ceased to function properly. The lesson is too clear. Jerusalem must stay united." Barkat added that "division focuses on differences rather than the common denominator that unites people of all faiths," and identified Jerusalem as "the heart and soul of the Jewish people." Barkat's letter also called into question the future role of the EU in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians should the Swedish initiative be endorsed in its current form. "The recent Swedish proposal to divide Jerusalem is a serious threat not just to the future of the city of Jerusalem, but also to the future role of the entire European Union in the peace process," he wrote. "By attempting to dictate the outcome of negotiations now, the Swedish delegation will strip the European Union of its right to serve as an honest mediator," stated Barkat, seeking to draw attention to the fact that a Palestinian state has yet to be established. Before concluding his letter, Barkat invited Ashton to Jerusalem so that she "may see first hand ... the necessity of a united Jerusalem." While EU ministers deliberated over the Swedish proposal on Monday, both Israeli and European officials said on Sunday that they believed the final conclusions that would emerge from the meeting would deviate from the proposal's original text. Nonetheless, if such a resolution were to pass, it would be the first time the EU has called formally for the recognition of east Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. Moreover, the proposal makes no mention of recognizing west Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The proposal by Sweden, which this month is winding down its tenure as rotating president of the EU, is also reportedly backed by Ireland, Belgium, Britain and Malta, while Italy, Holland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Romania, Poland and Slovenia have come out against the wording of the text. Meanwhile on Monday, the left-wing Gush Shalom movement released a statement calling on EU ministers to "proclaim Jerusalem as the capital of two states." According to a press release from the organization, the 27 EU foreign ministers and their respective embassies were sent copies of Gush Shalom's "Our Jerusalem" petition, which declares that Jerusalem "must be the capital of two states that will live side by side in this country - West Jerusalem the capital of the State of Israel and East Jerusalem the capital of the State of Palestine." The petition, which was initiated in 1995 by Gush Shalom in cooperation with the former PLO official Faisal Husseini and other east Jerusalem Palestinian leaders, was at the time signed by about a thousand public figures. "The European Union's proclaiming Jerusalem as the capital of two states and an accelerated implementation of this principle in practice would be a desirable and positive act for Israelis, for Palestinians, for peace and the future of all who live in this region," Gush Shalom wrote to the EU ministers. "The EU's step would at last allow embassies to move to West Jerusalem," the statement added. "The government of Israel should have been the first to promote this idea." Herb Keinon and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.