Israel: Don't call J'lem Palestinian capital

Dont call Jlem Palest

The Foreign Ministry is actively lobbying against an EU draft resolution on the Middle East put forward by Sweden that, in the words of a senior Israeli diplomat, wholly adopts the Palestinian narrative without even a wink toward Israel's concerns. The resolution, which for the first time refers to "Palestine," calls for a resumption of negotiations that would lead to a Palestinian state with "East Jerusalem" as its capital. According to the official, should the resolution pass it would be the first time the EU has formally called for recognition of east Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. The Swedish proposal, first reported Monday in Ha'aretz, is backed by Britain. But since a number of countries - including Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic, Romania, Poland and Slovenia - do not back the wording, it is likely to go through a number of revisions before being discussed at a monthly meeting of EU foreign ministers on December 7. Both Israeli and EU officials expect the language of the resolution to be changed. The proposal, coming just days after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced an unprecedented moratorium on housing starts in the West Bank, gives short shrift to that move, saying only that the EU "takes note" of the decision and "expresses the hope that it will become a step towards resuming meaningful negotiations." "This resolution shows that what Israel does is never enough, and the onus is only on us," the senior Israeli diplomat said. "It shows that the Palestinians want to get an agreement without having to go through negotiations." The official said the draft conclusion represented a near-full acceptance of the Palestinian narrative, including the Palestinian stand on east Jerusalem, their demand for a return to the 1967 lines and the call to remove the security barrier. The draft does not, he said, take into consideration Israel's concerns such as security, the demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state or the insistence that Palestinian refugees be repatriated to a future Palestinian state, and not to Israel. "They don't mention our issues, and when we bring them up, they say only that these will be dealt with during the negotiations," the diplomat said. "However, the Palestinian issues they put in the conclusions - those issues don't have to be negotiated." An EU official said that the proposal was an attempt to encourage the Palestinians back to the negotiation table, signaling that if they do return to the talks - despite Netanyahu's declarations that Israel will continue to build in Jerusalem - the EU would side with the PA on key issues. The official dismissed as a "reflexive response" a Foreign Ministry statement saying that such a resolution would disqualify the EU from playing a mediating role in the conflict. The EU never had any illusions about mediating between Israel and the Palestinians, the official said, saying everyone realized that the Americans filled that role. Israel's anger was directed principally at Sweden, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU until January 1, and which - according to Israeli officials - was interested in leaving behind a resolution that would be remembered as a "turning point" in the Middle East. Israeli officials dismissed as nonsense European claims that the resolution would strengthen Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, saying all it would do was strengthen his belief that there was no need to negotiate, and that if he just waited long enough the international community would deliver Israel. What is infuriating, the official said, was that Netanyahu "went the extra mile" in declaring the moratorium, and that instead of getting praise, the Europeans put all the pressure on Israel. "One of Netanyahu's critics is going to come out tomorrow and point to this and say, 'See, the moratorium is worthless, look what the Europeans are doing,'" he said. Indeed, Likud MK Danny Danon issued a statement Tuesday saying that "anyone who thought that freezing construction would remove the international pressure from Israel was mistaken. Only standing up firmly for our rights will remove the international pressure. In addition to calling for a Palestinian state with "East Jerusalem" as its capital, the draft said the EU "stands ready to further develop its bilateral relations with Palestine as far as formally possible" and would, "at the appropriate time," recognize a Palestinian state. One Foreign Ministry source said that another infuriating aspect of the draft conclusions was that its call for east Jerusalem to be the capital of an independent Palestinian state was not coupled with a call to recognize west Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. "This disrupts the balance," the official said, adding that the resolution was pushed forward by the Swedes without any prior coordination with Israel. The official pointed out that since taking over the presidency in July, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Blidt has not visited the country once. He was scheduled to come in September, but his visit was cancelled following angry Israeli reactions to the Aftonbladet newspaper article that accused Israeli soldiers of harvesting Palestinian organs. One of the indirect outcomes of the flap has been a rare meeting of minds between Kadima head Tzipi Livni and the government. Livni, who rarely finds common cause with the government, backed the Foreign Ministry's position and sent a letter to Blidt on Tuesday saying the draft conclusions appeared to be "an attempt to prejudge the outcome of issues reserved for permanent status negotiations." She urged the EU to refrain from adopting any position on Jerusalem. Whatever the intention of the draft conclusions, Livni wrote, "I believe that any attempt to dictate for either party the nature of the outcome on the status of Jerusalem is not helpful and wrong."