The council of European foreign ministers is currently debating a draft resolution drawn up by Sweden, holder of the rotating EU presidency, which is supposed to specify EU positions on different aspects of the Middle East conflict.
The draft posits positions, including on the issue of Jerusalem, that have caused fierce debate in European policy-making circles. Such debate indicates that there is a growing feeling among Europeans in general as well as their governments that Israeli actions in Jerusalem are exceeding all acceptable limits and are in clear violation of international law.
This was substantiated by a recent internal EU report prepared by representatives of some European countries in Jerusalem about Israeli policies toward Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem. The report, which was leaked to the Israeli media together with the Swedish draft resolution, points out that the Israeli policy of evicting Palestinian Jerusalemites from East Jerusalem increased significantly in 2008. This increase came with similar increases in the number of Palestinian houses demolished, Palestinians evicted from their homes and similar violations of international law and standards.
The leak of the draft resolution would seem to have been done deliberately in order to afford Israel an opportunity to attack the resolution and pressure Europe to water down its language. Israel has three main concerns with the resolution as expressed by some officials. First, Israel will want to ensure that the final document does not make a reference to Jerusalem as the capital of two states, Israel and Palestine.
Secondly, Israel will want also to dilute a reference to European willingness to recognize a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders. Finally, Israel will also seek to insert a positive recognition by Europe of the settlement "freeze" the Israeli government announced last week.
Should Israel be successful in pressuring Europe to water down the resolution it will mark yet another victory for Israel’s extreme right wing. This right wing has all along argued that Israel will not face international censure for its activities in occupied territory, including East Jerusalem, no matter what they are.
It is about time that Europe reminded Israel that Jerusalem is part of the territories occupied in 1967 and that, sooner or later, East Jerusalem will have to be included in the territories from which Israel must withdraw in order to allow for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. Indeed, there will be no agreement without East Jerusalem. This is not only unacceptable to Palestinians, it is not acceptable to the Arab and wider Muslim world.
It must here be noted that ending the occupation of East Jerusalem and allowing the city to become the capital of two states does not necessarily mean dividing the city. The city, in fact, is divided at the moment, mainly due to the discriminatory policies of Israel toward Jerusalem’s Palestinian population. Nevertheless, Jerusalem can be an open city and at the same time the capital of two states, a home to both Palestinians and Israelis and with free access between east and west.
In such a case, Jerusalem, now one of the main causes of friction and violence between Palestinians and Israelis, could instead become a prime example of reconciliation, peace and coexistence.