Israel said to thwart EU condemnation of American embassy move

Hungary, Romania and Czech Republic help Jerusalem prevent statement against relocation

View of the US Consulate in Jerusalem's Arnona neighborhood, February 24, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
View of the US Consulate in Jerusalem's Arnona neighborhood, February 24, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel, aided by several European nations, on Friday thwarted plans for a European Union statement condemning the relocation of the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, Channel 10 news reported.

European diplomats and Israeli officials said the statement, initiated by France, sought to present a unified European front against Washington’s move.

But objections by Hungary, the Czech Republic and Romania helped Jerusalem stop the statement.

According to the report, the draft resolution stated that Jerusalem should be the capital of two states — Israel and Palestine; that the status of Jerusalem should only be resolved as part of peace negotiations; and that EU nations will not follow the US in moving their missions to the holy city.

The Czech Republic’s president has voiced support for moving the country’s embassy to Jerusalem, though the move is opposed by the prime minister. Romania’s prime minister has also spoken in favor of such a relocation, opposed by that country’s president.

Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila, left, stands next to Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis after the swearing-in of her cabinet, in Bucharest, Romania, Monday, January 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

On Wednesday Hadashot TV news reported that European diplomats will skip a Foreign Ministry event next week, marking the opening of the American embassy which will operate at the site of a US consulate facility in the capital.

Despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inviting the entire foreign diplomatic corps to Sunday’s event, many European envoys, including those from the United Kingdom, France and Germany, will boycott the ceremony, the report said.

“It is a little strange to invite us to celebrate an event that we opposed and condemned. The Americans were more clever and knew in advance not to invite us to save themselves from embarrassment,” the network quoted a diplomatic source as saying.

The Foreign Ministry later said it was not aware of any decision to skip the event.

“At the moment 30 of 86 ambassadors have responded positively [to the invitation]. A large number of ambassadors have yet to respond. We hope all the ambassadors will arrive,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said.

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat on Monday called on foreign dignitaries in Israel and around the world to stay away so as not to endorse what he called Washington’s “flagrant violations of international law.”

“As Washington pursues a policy of encouragement of international anarchy and disregard for organizations and international law, we call upon all diplomatic corps, civil society organizations and religious authorities to boycott the inauguration ceremony of the US embassy in Jerusalem, lest they lend legitimacy to an illegal decision and to continued Israeli policies of occupation, colonization and annexation,” Erekat said.

Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, speaks to journalists during a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah on April 21, 2018. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

US President Donald Trump’s December 6 decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to relocate the embassy there “is not only illegal but will also thwart the achievement of a just and lasting peace between two sovereign and democratic states on the 1967 borders, Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security,” Erekat’s statement went on.

The Palestinians have adamantly rejected Trump’s policy on Jerusalem and have effectively avoided any contact with US officials since the decision.

Sunday’s Foreign Ministry event will also mark Guatemala’s opening of its embassy in the city next week and will be attended by Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales. Guatemala announced weeks after Trump it would move its embassy to Jerusalem, making it the second country to do so.

Paraguay on Wednesday confirmed it will also move its embassy to Jerusalem, after Nahshon said Monday that Paraguay President Horacio Cartes will travel to Israel later this month for the inauguration.

Raphael Ahren and Alexander Fulbright contributed to this report.

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