Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took his case to Europe to ask allies to join the United States in recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but was met by a firm rebuff from EU foreign ministers who saw the move as a blow against the peace process.
Making his first ever visit to EU headquarters in Brussels, Netanyahu said President Donald Trump’s move made peace in the Middle East possible “because recognizing reality is the substance of peace, the foundation of peace.”
Trump announced last Wednesday that the United States would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, breaking with decades of U.S. policy and international consensus that the ancient city’s status must be decided in Israeli-Palestinian talks.
Israel, which annexed East Jerusalem after capturing it in a 1967 war, considers the entire city to be its capital. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent state.
The Trump administration says it remains committed to the peace process and its decision does not affect Jerusalem’s future borders or status. It says any credible future peace deal will place the Israeli capital in Jerusalem, and ditching old policies is needed to revive a peace process frozen since 2014.
But even Israel’s closest European allies have rejected that logic and say recognizing Israel’s capital unilaterally risks inflaming violence and further wrecking the chance for peace.
After a breakfast meeting between Netanyahu and EU foreign ministers, Sweden’s top diplomat said no European at the closed-door meeting had “I have a hard time seeing that any other country would do that and I don’t think any other EU country will do it,” Margot Wallstrom told reporters.
Israel’s position does appear to have more support from some EU states than others. Last week, the Czech foreign ministry said it would begin considering moving the Czech Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, while Hungary blocked a planned EU statement condemning the U.S. move.
But Prague later said it accepted Israel’s sovereignty only over West Jerusalem, and Budapest said its long-term position seeking a two-state solution in the Middle East had not changed.
On Monday, Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek said of Trump’s decision: “I‘m afraid it can’t help us.”
“I‘m convinced that it is impossible to ease tension with a unilateral solution,” Zaoralek said. “We are talking about an Israeli state but at the same time we have to speak about a Palestinian state.”