EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini rejected a suggestion Monday by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that most EU countries would follow Donald Trump’s lead and ultimately recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Netanyahu made his prediction at a news conference with Mogherini in Brussels, ahead of a meeting with EU foreign ministers.
“I believe that even though we don’t have an agreement yet, this is what will happen in the future — I believe all or most EU countries will move their embassies to Jerusalem, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,” Netanyahu said.
Speaking after the foreign ministers’ meeting, Mogherini stated plainly that Netanyahu’s expectations were misplaced.
“He can keep his expectations for others because, from the European Union member states’ side, this move will not come,” Mogherini told reporters.
Trump’s decision has ratcheted up tensions in the Middle East and nearly all EU governments condemned it.
Meeting on Sunday in Paris with Netanyahu, French President Emmanuel Macron declared the move a “threat to peace.” Netanyahu, however, defended the decision in Brussels on Monday.
“For 3,000 years, Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people,” he said. “What President Trump has done, is to put facts squarely on the table. Peace is based on reality. Peace is based on recognizing reality.”
Mogherini, by contrast, stressed the European view that the move was unhelpful.
“We believe that the only realistic solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine is based on two states with Jerusalem as the capital of both, the state of Israel and the state of Palestine,” she said. “This is our consolidated position and we’ll continue to respect the international consensus on Jerusalem.”
She also warned of the danger of an escalation of violence and condemned “in the strongest possible way all attacks on Jews everywhere in the world” stressing that “we’ll have a similar conversation with [Palestinian Authority] President [Mahmoud] Abbas in January.”
Netanyahu addressed EU foreign ministers on Monday at the invitation of Lithuania. One diplomat said the discussion was “pretty tense” at certain moments but Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius took issue with that description.
“It was not confrontational, it was very rational and very concrete. There were arguments provided, everyone knows that positions are different on many aspects — on settlements, two-state solution, or the role of Iran,” Linkevičius told POLITICO.
The Israeli premier used the visit also to remind Europeans of Israeli efforts to prevent terrorist attacks in Europe. “Israeli intelligence has prevented dozens of terrorist attacks many of them on European soil,” he told reporters, stressing that the EU and Israel are partners in three main areas: security; peace; and prosperity.
And Netanyahu warned that “the greatest problem facing Europe is the flow of the people who are escaping the battle-torn areas in the Middle East” as “Israel is the strongest power in the Middle East that is preventing the spread of militant Islam.”
Israel does that to protect itself, he said, but in doing so it “serves a very important security function for the people of Europe in ways that are not always understood but increasingly are appreciated by the relevant governments.”
Ahead of the meeting, EU diplomats had expressed concern about EU unity on the issue of Jerusalem after Hungary broke ranks and refused to take part in joint declaration against the U.S. embassy’s move, according to two senior diplomats. Budapest also asked other Central European countries to join in supporting, but they denied it, one diplomat said.
Still, while Hungary remained isolated, many diplomats were angered by the defection. “The EU is not any more united against Trump,” said one upset senior diplomat.
Yet the Hungarian foreign minister Péter Szijjártó said Friday that Budapest did not veto anything since there was not a text on the table, according to a diplomat briefed on the Hungarian position. Still, Budapest confirmed that in its view the member country should issue their own statements, and not a common one, added the diplomat — a departure from customary practice on such a weighty global issue.
This article has been updated.