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Israel think-tank warns EU off "Swedish proposal"

Last Updated: Thursday, December 3, 2009 - 18:50

Jerusalem: A proposal before the European Union to endorse the division of Jerusalem would risk closing off half the city to non-Muslims, according to a think tank close to the Israeli government.
The Israel Project said the plan could be backed at a regular meeting of the bloc`s 27 foreign ministers on Monday, as part of what it called a bid to "forge a high-profile role" in resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Diplomats in Brussels said the EU meeting was likely to discuss the stalled Middle East peace process, but no radical new policy change was in the works. East Jerusalem has been seen for years as prospective capital of a future Palestinian state.

The think tank singled out current EU President Sweden and its Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, saying he aimed to sideline the EU`s more balanced existing policy.

Relations between Sweden and Israel have been irritated recently by what was seen in Israel as an anti-Semitic story in the Swedish press and Israel`s refusal to let a Swedish minister visit Palestinians in the blockaded Gaza Strip.

The Israeli strategists say the EU`s current policy calls for a two-state solution which "should take into account the political and religious concerns of both sides, and protects the religious interests of Jews, Christians, and Muslims worldwide."

They said that when East Jerusalem fell under Arab control in the 1948 Middle East war, "access typically was denied to all but non-Muslims, forbidding Christians and Jews from visiting their holiest sites."

The think tank said that Israel, by contrast, after its victory in the 1967 Middle East war, "liberated Jerusalem and opened it up to people of all faiths”.

The Israel Project said that "the EU proposal also implies recognition of a unilaterally declared Palestinian state" that it says the Palestinian Fatah movement intends to announce without waiting for any peace treaty with Israel.

It said Israel`s Foreign Ministry had responded to "the Swedish proposal" urging the EU to instead "focus on getting the Palestinians to take steps to demonstrate they are interested in pursuing peace."

Bureau Report

First Published: Thursday, December 3, 2009 - 18:50

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