Defiant Netanyahu Pushes Back Against EU Pressure on Jerusalem

(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented Israel as a guarantor of European Union security, as he sought to push back against increasing pressure from the bloc for a more conciliatory policy toward Palestine.

Israel has fought against the spread of militant Islam and helped avert numerous terrorist attacks on European soil, Netanyahu said on Monday in Brussels before a meeting with EU foreign ministers.

Defiant Netanyahu Pushes Back Against EU Pressure on Jerusalem

“Israel is the strongest power in the Middle East that is preventing the spread of militant Islam, not only preventing ISIS attacks in Europe but also preventing the collapse of many parts in the Middle East adjacent to Israel that otherwise would be taken over by these militant Islamists driving many, many millions into Europe,” he told reporters.

Netanyahu’s visit to the EU comes as U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has reignited tensions in the Middle East. The EU has condemned Trump’s Jerusalem step, as well as his call to annul the Iran nuclear accord, in what is effectively an end to decades of a united Western policy in the Middle East.

Jerusalem must be the capital “of both Israel and Palestine,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a joint press appearance with Netanyahu. Her comments echoed French President Emmanuel Macron, who said on Sunday that Trump’s decision constitutes “a danger to peace.” 

While Mogherini reaffirmed that “Israel and the EU are friends and partners,” she reiterated the bloc’s position that it’s in the security interest of Israel to relaunch the peace process.

Beirut Protests

A few hours later, thousands took to the streets in Beirut’s southern suburbs in a mass rally organized by Hezbollah, the Iran-backed militant group, chanting slogans against the U.S. And Israel. Protesters shouted "Death to America," "Death to Israel," and "War, War, until victory,” in one of the largest Arab protests since the U.S. announced its decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

In Brussels, Netanyahu stressed how the EU needs Israel’s “vital” partnership in areas ranging from big data and artificial intelligence to energy security. Invoking the Bible to justify Israel’s claim to Jerusalem, he claimed Trump’s decision “put facts squarely on the table,” and called United Nations and UNESCO decisions on Jerusalem “laughable.”

“I believe that all or most of the EU countries will move their embassies to Jerusalem, recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and engage robustly with us for security, prosperity and peace,” Netanyahu said.

As expected he didn’t manage to convince the EU to change its stance. “I know that Prime Minister Netanyahu mentioned a couple of times that he expects others to follow President Trump’s decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem,” Mogherini said after the meeting of EU foreign ministers. “He can keep his expectations for others, because from the European Union member states’ side, this move will not come.”

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