Jerusalem should be capital of two states: EU diplomat

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Published Sunday, November 9, 2014

The European Union's top diplomat Federica Mogherini said on Saturday that Jerusalem "should be the capital of two states," as tensions gripped the holy city.

"I think Jerusalem can be and should be the capital of two states," Mogherini told reporters in the Israeli-occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, touching on a sensitive issue that has blocked peace efforts for decades.

Her appeal, at a joint news conference with Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah, came hours after the killing of a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship by Israeli forces fanned tensions.

The shooting came after another night of clashes in East Jerusalem between Israeli Occupation Forces and Palestinians.

The violence has spiked as Israel has pushed ahead with its policy to build Zionist settlements on lands the Palestinians want for a future state and against the background of efforts by Jewish extremists to secure rights to pray at Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque.

"Jerusalem is not just a beautiful city, the challenge is to show that Jerusalem can be shared in peace and respect," said Mogherini.

"The message is not for the people who live here, the message is to the rest of the world," she said. "It is not a Palestinian-Israeli situation, it is a global issue."

Since starting her first official visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories on Friday, Mogherini has been pushing for ways of reviving the peace process frozen since April.

Mogherini also visited the Gaza Strip, the coastal enclave devastated by a 50-day Israeli aggression that left some 2,200 Palestinians dead, mostly civilians.

The world "cannot afford" another war in Gaza, she said Saturday, appealing for the creation of a Palestinian state.

"We need a Palestinian state -- that is the ultimate goal and this is the position of all the European Union," she said in Gaza.

On Friday, Mogherini met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who dismissed her criticism of Israeli settlement building in annexed East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

"Jerusalem is our capital and as such is not a settlement," he insisted.

Netanyahu approved last week a plan for the construction of 1,060 new settlement units in Jerusalem.

Besides the 1,000 new settler homes, Israel has recently approved the construction of more than 2,600 settler homes in East Jerusalem.

More than 500,000 Israeli settlers live in settlements across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in contravention of international law.

The roots of the Israel-Palestine conflict date back to 1917, when the British government, in the now-famous "Balfour Declaration," called for "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people."

Israel occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Zionist state – a move never recognized by the international community.

Palestinians, for their part, continue to demand the establishment of an independent state in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

It is worth noting that numerous pro-Palestine activists argue in favor of a one-state solution, arguing that the creation of a Palestinian state beside Israel would not be sustainable.

They add that the two-state solution, which is the only option considered by international actors, won't solve existing discrimination, nor erase economic and military tensions.

International community advocating a two-state solution

Even though the UN Security Council failed to condemn the escalation in Israeli violations last month, Israel came under strong criticism from several countries, which called for an end to unilateral actions including settlement expansions.

Speaking to the council, top UN official Jeffrey Feltman said the Israeli practice of moving settlers to Palestinian territories was "in violation of international law" and runs counter to a two-state solution of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is "alarmed" by the latest plans for new Israeli settlements which "once again raise grave doubts about Israel's commitment to achieving durable peace," Feltman told the council.

The US representative David Pressman told the council "settlement activity will only further escalate tensions at a time that is already tense enough.”

British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant warned that ongoing construction of Zionist settlements in Palestinian territories "makes it much more difficult for Israel's friends to defend it against accusations that it is not serious about peace."

French Ambassador Francois Delattre said "the risk of an explosion of uncontrolled violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank cannot be ignored" and called on Israel to drop the planned settlement.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the plan should be "frozen" and urged the council to play a more pro-active role to jump-start Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

The Spanish government also expressed its regret at the settlements plan. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that the decision "does not reflect the formally accepted target of negotiating with the Palestinians to seek a peaceful, global and lasting solution based on two states."

The ministry also reiterated its position, shared by the international community, that all forms of Israeli settlement construction in occupied Palestinian territories are illegal.

In a draft resolution circulated, the Palestinian Authority set November 2016 as the deadline for ending the Israeli withdrawal from the territories occupied by Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967 and establishing a two-state solution.

In October, Sweden became the first EU member state in western Europe to recognize Palestine.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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