The European Union on December 8 adopted a resolution that for the first time explicitly calls for Jerusalem to become the future capital of both a Palestinian state and Israel. Backing away at the last minute from a more controversial Swedish proposal to officially call for the division of Jerusalem, the EU endorsed a watered-down declaration that states: “If there is to be a genuine peace, a way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states.”
The original proposal drafted by Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, a well-known pro-Palestinian activist whose country currently holds the six-month rotating presidency of the EU, had called for the creation of a “State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital.” Israeli officials, angry over EU efforts to prejudge the outcome of issues reserved for permanent status negotiations, persuaded French diplomats to remove the offending text, as well as other references to a Palestinian state that would comprise “the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza.”
Israel has always maintained that Jerusalem will remain its undivided capital, regardless of any future peace settlement with the Palestinians. This has been the declared policy of all Israeli governments, left or right.
The EU statement, which comes just days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a 10-month freeze on construction in West Bank settlements, will be viewed by many as a European attempt to preempt any possible resumption of Middle East peace talks by helping the Palestinians improve their negotiating position vis-à-vis Israel.
Although the 27-member EU has limited clout as a diplomatic player in the Arab-Israel conflict, the EU is the biggest donor of financial assistance to Palestinian Authority, which has been accused of diverting the money to promote terror against Israel. The EU statement, which is predictably one-sided, could end up disincentivizing a new round of negotiations. Indeed, Palestinians may well be emboldened by the EU’s tacit acceptance of their key positions and be led to believe that if they hold out longer, the EU will support them on other core issues as well.
The EU resolution is overwhelmingly supportive of Palestinian statehood. For example, paragraph 3 of the EU text states:
The EU stands ready to further develop its bilateral relations with the Palestinian Authority reflecting shared interests, including in the framework of the European Neighborhood Policy. Recalling the Berlin declaration, the Council also reiterates its support for negotiations leading to Palestinian statehood, all efforts and steps to that end and its readiness, when appropriate, to recognize a Palestinian state. It will continue to assist Palestinian statebuilding, including through its CSDP [EU Common Security and Defense Policy] missions and within the Quartet. The EU fully supports the implementation of the Palestinian Authority’s Government Plan “Palestine, Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State” as an important contribution to this end and will work for enhanced international support for this plan.