The European Union is huffing and puffing anew about Jewish construction in East Jerusalem, all of which will no doubt smooth the path to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s re-election. Running against Europe and for Jerusalem is a no-brainer for an Israeli leader. Netanyahu must be secretly blessing the EU foreign ministries for boosting his chances for a stronger government.
Britain, France, Germany, and Portugal, all members of the UN Security Council, plan to issue a statement in the next few days condemning Netanyahu’s plan to construct new housing in East Jerusalem—a decision the Israeli leader made in response to the Palestinians’ successful bid for an updated status at the UN.
Netanyahu told the Europeans where they could put their complaints:
“Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the state of Israel, and we will continue to build there,” Netanyahu said during a visit to the northern Israeli city of Acre. He said Israelis overwhelmingly believed in “united Jerusalem,” referring to Jewish west Jerusalem and east Jerusalem, the section of the city captured from Jordan and annexed by Israel but claimed by the Palestinians.”
If their goal was to slow the construction of new housing as part of a plan to reopen negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority, the EU countries should have saved their threats and ultimatums for after the election, when Netanyahu will be more interested in policy than in politics.
As it is, the Europeans are providing a big boost to the Israeli Right and are making it harder for negotiations after the elections. This ineptness should not be a surprise: various European governments have been trying for decades to get a bigger role in the peace process but have made no progress in all of that time. Perhaps at some point they will tire of failure and start re-examining the presuppositions of their policy. Or perhaps they prefer to fail grimly on.