EU backs down over controversial Palestinian proposal

A controversial European proposal over a future Palestinian state has been wiped off the table after a deep split emerged among EU countries.
Vanessa Mock - RNW
EU Parliament Brussels

The original text, which had been put forward by Sweden, triggered an outcry in Israel because it named East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian State.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, whose country currently heads up the rotating EU Presidency, has even been branded "an obstacle to peace" by Israel, which dispatched dozens of officials to Brussels over the past days to oppose the plan. Jerusalem's Mayor Nir Barkat had also written to the EU to warn of the dangers of splitting his city, which Israelis view as the eternal heart of the Jewish state.
The amended statement by the EU's 27 foreign ministers removes the explicit mention of a "viable state of Palestine comprising the West Bank and Gaza and with East Jerusalem as its capital." Instead, it stresses the need for a solution to be found "through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states."
But Carl Bildt refuted accusations that Brussels had caved in to Israeli pressure and the "unplanned discussions" on the issue was proof of the importance of the EU's voice.

"In this type of conflict there is always controversy. Both parties [Israelis and Palestinians] have tried to influence the EU and its views. But the outcome is we're speaking with one clear voice and we will make a big effort to make the process move again," he told reporters in Brussels.

The Netherlands was among numerous countries, including Italy and Germany, that had pushed for a watering down of the wording, diplomats said. However Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen insisted that the text had not changed substantially as it still referred to the EU's non-acceptance of post-1967 borders.

"I am perfectly happy with the wording as it is now," he told RNW. "We say clearly that two sides should resume negotiations without pre-conditions and we have stated explicitly that we condemn the building and demolishing in East Jerusalem [by the Israelis]."
But other EU countries, including Finland and Luxembourg, had wanted a more muscular stance. "East Jerusalem is not part of Israel," Luxembourg's Jean Asselborn had told journalists on Tuesday morning.

It will now fall to the EU's new foreign affairs chief, Catherine Ashton, to lead any efforts to revive the faltering peace process. However, Baroness Ashton, who is just fresh in the job, says it will take time for the EU's vast new foreign service to be put in place and that she was still 'learning the ropes' of her new post.