Israel pressing EU to reject J'lem draft

Israel pressing EU minis

Both Israeli and European officials believe the conclusions on the Middle East expected to emerge from Monday's EU foreign ministers' meeting will be different from a Swedish draft text calling for east Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. However, what remains unclear after nearly a week of internal EU wrangling and heavy lobbying by both Israelis and Palestinians is exactly what the changes will be. Israel is pushing for a text much shorter than the three-to-four-page Swedish draft, and one that would commend Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's housing-start moratorium in the settlements and urge the Palestinians back to the negotiation table. The Palestinian Authority, meanwhile, is trying to convince the 27 EU nations to support the Swedish draft resolution on the Middle East that for the first time refers to "Palestine," and calls for a resumption of negotiations that would lead to a Palestinian state with "East Jerusalem" as its capital. The draft resolution only "takes note" of Netanyahu's housing-start moratorium, and says the EU hopes "it will become a step towards resuming meaningful negotiations." Such a resolution, were it to pass, would be the first time the EU has called formally for recognition of east Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. Israeli diplomatic officials maintain that it would also serve as a disincentive to negotiations, as the Palestinians would be emboldened by the EU's acceptance of their key positions and believe that if they hold out longer, the EU would support them on other core issues as well. 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. France has also opposed the draft on the grounds that more support should be given to Netanyahu for the settlement moratorium, and also because of a feeling that while France supported Jerusalem becoming the capital of two states in a future solution, the modalities of how this would be done should be left to the negotiations. Netanyahu has taken an active part in lobbying against the resolution, discussing the matter with a number of international leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, whose country takes over the rotating presidency of the EU in January. Jerusalem has also been in contact with the US on the matter, trying to persuade American officials to impress upon the Europeans the ramifications of adopting a resolution that Israel feels pre-judges negotiations. According to government officials, Netanyahu, in his discussions, has stressed that Israel has taken a very difficult step in calling for a 10-month moratorium, and that it was now time for the international community to place the spotlight on the Palestinians. The message of the international community, he has said, had to be that following the moratorium declaration, the Palestinians could not just respond with "business as usual," and that the international community must hold them accountable for not responding in kind.