US embassy in Jerusalem: How should the EU respond?
The US will open its embassy in Jerusalem today. A joint EU condemnation of the move was prevented by the Czech Republic, Romania and Hungary. Some commentators are glad this happened. Others argue that the time has now come for the EU to show solidarity with the Palestinians.
Criticism of embassy move spurious
The Czech Republic is one of the countries blocking a joint EU declaration against the move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Lidové noviny understands why:
“The EU insists on the two-state solution. This solution, however, is not prevented by a country's moving its embassy to West Jerusalem. What's more, there are already consulates in East and West Jerusalem. Why isn't anyone getting upset about that? ... There has been a Palestinian embassy in Prague for 30 the past years. If the Czech Republic moved its embassy to West Jerusalem it wouldn't be an acting in an unbalanced way. If the EU really wanted to treat both sides equally, two points would have to apply: there could be no embassies in Jerusalem before a peace treaty were signed. In return, however, until that happened the state of Palestine could not be recognised.”
Visegrád states looking for new partners
The blocking of the EU declaration by Hungary, the Czech Republic and Romania fits in well with the current policy of the Visegrád states, journalist Cristian Unteanu writes in his blog with Adevărul:
“In this highly explosive context the president of the Romanian Senate, Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu, has given a very suggestive explanation. In his view: 'In a Union in which discussion increasingly focuses on a multi-speed Europe you can't rule out different speeds in foreign policy too.' Tăriceanu's interesting statement dovetails perfectly with the traditional ideology of the Visegrád group, which is increasingly looking for partners so as to become a true pole of power that can play a coherent role both in the EU's domestic and foreign policy. To that end it is seeking to ally itself with the US and what will soon be post-Brexit Britain.”
Recognise Palestine now
Britain and other EU states should send a strong political signal to the Palestinians in reaction to the relocation of the US embassy, Israeli peace activist Alon Liel urges in The Guardian:
“This is the policy move that could counterbalance Trump's one-sided and dangerous move of his embassy. Such a British act of recognition would reaffirm Palestinian basic rights, restore hope, and it would help create the much-needed parity of esteem without which no peace agreement can be just or sustainable. I would even go so far as to say that if Britain (ideally co-ordinating its policy with France) recognised Palestine, it could save the equitable two-state solution and the possibility of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.”
Trump playing with fire in Middle East
According to Dagens Nyheter Trump has chosen the worst moment to transfer the US embassy to Jerusalem:
“He has just ended the nuclear deal with Iran. Tensions in the region are growing. Iran fired missiles at Israeli military bases in the Golan Heights last week. Israel reacted with missile attacks against Iranian targets in Syria. And when Israel celebrates its 70th birthday the Palestinians commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Nakba [in Arabic the exodus that occurred when around 700,000 Palestinian Arabs fled or were expelled from the former British Mandate territory]. This day of remembrance falls on Tuesday this year. On the next day Ramadan begins. The powder keg is full. Donald Trump has a box of matches at the ready.”