Saturday, December 5, 2009

PM Netanyahu makes final push to foil Swedish initiative to divide Jerusalem

(Haaretz).Israel and the Palestinian Authority are each lobbying European Union foreign ministers to adopt its respective position on Sweden's initiative to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of both Israel and Palestine. The proposal is to be discussed tomorrow in Brussels at the meeting of foreign ministers of EU member states.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has phoned several European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero, asking them to oppose the plan and to pressure the PA to renew negotiations with Israel.

In weekend discussions to prepare for tomorrow's meeting the foreign ministers could not agree over the formulation of the resolution. According to senior officials in Jerusalem as well as European diplomats, the main areas of disagreement were the status of Jerusalem, possible EU recognition of a Palestinian state and the extent of support by Israel's government of the 10-month construction moratorium in West Bank settlements.

Sweden, with the support of Britain, Ireland, Belgium and a number of other countries, continues to promote its original formulation of the proposal calling for East Jerusalem to be the capital of the Palestinian state. France, however, is pushing for a formulation that conforms to a speech that President Nicolas Sarkozy made to the Knesset two years ago. Sarkozy said that Jerusalem would be the capital of both countries and did not mention a division of the city into East and West Jerusalem. The French are also trying to promote a more definitive declaration of support for the construction freeze.

When Netanyahu spoke Thursday to Zapatero, whose country will take over the rotating presidency of the EU from Sweden next month, he told the Spanish prime minister that the EU should not determine the outcome of the negotiations on a final status agreement between Israel and the PA. On Tuesday Netanyahu gave a similar message to Merkel.

Meanwhile, National Security Adviser Uzi Arad phoned his French counterpart, Jean-David Levitte, and apparently also called British Foreign Policy Adviser Simon McDonald. During a meeting last week in Athens with the foreign ministers of Spain, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he hoped the wording of the resolution would be changed.