Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt
Israel on Tuesday slammed a Swedish proposal to recognize east Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. "The move being led by Stockholm damages the European Union's ability to take part and be a significant element in the mediation efforts between Israel and the Palestinians," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Yossi Levy.
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"The Europeans must pressure the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table. Such moves like the one being led by Sweden lead to the opposite outcome," Levy said in response to a report by Haaretz newspaper that Sweden was working to change the EU's stated policy.
The Swedish Embassy in Tel Aviv told Ynet in response that the European Union would not respond on a discussion being held or on any internal information or drafts. If a statement is made, the embassy said, it will undoubtedly reflect the position of all 27 countries.
According to senior Foreign Ministry officials, it is unclear whether EU members will back the draft resolution formulated by the Swedes ahead of a foreign ministers' periodic meeting in Brussels this month.
Border Guard officers in Jerusalem (Photo: AFP)
One of the officials clarified that "there is nothing new in the European stance in regards to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
Sweden is currently serving as the EU president until January. The Swedes presented a draft resolution stating that Jerusalem would be divided and that the eastern part of the city would serve as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
"There is practically no change in this wording compared to the wording of the Road Map," said a senior state official. "The Swedes are just indulging in polemics. For example, this formula only talks about the Palestinian capital, without any call to recognize west Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and a plan to transfer all European embassies there."
According to the official, "The drama is not in the statement, whose wording is familiar in a less strict wording in the Road Map, but in the Swedish twisting which does not promote the peace process but only presents a one-sided stance with the aim of causing anger."
Diplomatic stalemateIsrael's representatives in the European capitals are inquiring whether the other 26 EU members support the Swedish stand. According to the Foreign Ministry, there is no guarantee at this stage that the Swedish formula has been accepted by the other members, and there are even some who oppose it.
On the backdrop of the stalemate in the peace process, the Palestinian Authority has been working more intensely to have an independent state unilaterally declared. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said about two weeks ago that the Palestinian leadership planned to gain international support before appealing to the UN Security Council for international recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, with east Jerusalem as its capital.
The United States and European Union, however, expressed their objection to this move, claiming it was premature. "I don't think we are there yet," Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said several days after the offer was made.
"I would hope we would be in a position to recognize a Palestinian state but there has to be one first. So I think that is a bit premature," Bildt added. "We would be ready to recognize a Palestinian state but conditions are not there as of yet."
The world's countries believe Jerusalem should be divided in any peace settlement. In response to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's statement that "united Jerusalem will always be the capital of Israel," the Foreign Ministry in Paris issued a statement saying that France believed Jerusalem should be the capital of two states.
Reuters contributed to this report