Foreign Ministry blasts EU criticism of the move

Netanyahu likens Trump’s Jerusalem speech to Israel’s founding

PM, who spoke to the president three times in run-up to decision, calls US recognition of capital ‘a festive and unifying moment’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday called US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital one of the key milestones in the Jewish state’s history, comparing it to several monumental past events.

“There are major moments in the history of Zionism: the Balfour Declaration, the founding of the state, the liberation of Jerusalem and Trump’s announcement yesterday,” Netanyahu said in a video posted to social media.

“I told him: ‘My friend the president, you are going to make history.’ Yesterday, he made history,” Netanyahu added.

The prime minister said Trump’s decision was embraced by Israelis of all stripes, paraphrasing a famous biblical verse to invoke the Jewish people’s long-held emotional attachment to the city.

“This is a festive and unifying moment, for the right, the left, religious, secular,” he said. “We are making Jerusalem our chief joy.”

This file photo taken on January 11, 2010, shows an aerial view of Jerusalem’s Old City. (AFP Photo/AFP Files/Marina Passos)

Netanyahu, who has been effusive in his praise of the US president’s decision, spoke three times with Trump in the days before the speech, discussing with him the “importance” of him recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a well-placed Israel source said.

Netanyahu stressed to Trump that the status quo on the Temple Mount will be preserved, the source said.

Briefing reporters about the international reactions to Trump’s dramatic declaration Wednesday, the source said that the responses from Central and Eastern European countries, as expected, were “measured.”

“Israel’s problem is focused on Western European countries, which can be seen also from their reactions to President’s Trump statement,” the source said.

But Jerusalem was unfazed by such responses, the source added. “Israel is acting in several other international arenas, creating new relationships in Latin America, Asia and Africa in order to pursue its agenda.”

Netanyahu is due to fly to the “lion’s den” in Paris and Brussels early next week to confront Western European positions toward Israel, the source said. He is scheduled to meet French President Emmanuel Macron, as well as European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and all 28 foreign ministers of EU member states.

Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, speaking to reporters in Brussels, Belgium, Oct. 19, 2017. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images via JTA)

On Thursday, the Foreign Ministry hit back at Mogherini over her criticism of Trump’s move, saying continued rejection of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would harm chances for peace.

Speaking earlier in the day, Mogherini had said Trump’s “announcement has the potential to send us backwards to even darker times than the ones we are already living in,” reiterating the EU’s policy that Jerusalem should be the capital of both Israel and a future Palestinian state.

She also called for “an even stronger engagement for peace” during “this difficult moment” and said the bloc will now “engage even more with the parties and with our regional and international partners” in the pursuit of a peace deal.

The Foreign Ministry’s response termed her remarks “bizarre.”

“The insistence that Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel is a denial of an indisputable historical fact,” it said. “Any denial of this simple truth distances peace by creating expectations among the Palestinians that are divorced from reality.

“President Trump took a courageous and just step that advances the chance for peace by speaking the truth,” it added.

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