BRUSSELS: Israel’s leader faces renewed pressure from Europe on Monday to reboot the Middle East’s moribund peace process following widespread criticism of the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s capital.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be in Brussels for an informal breakfast with EU foreign ministers who will urge him to “resume meaningful negotiations”, according to the bloc’s diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini.
The talks come after French President Emmanuel Macron met Netanyahu in Paris and called on him to freeze settlement building and to re-engage with Palestinians following widespread protests over the US move.
Last week’s decision by the administration of US President Donald Trump upended decades of US diplomacy and broke with international consensus.
Speaking alongside Netanyahu, Macron again condemned the decision as “contrary to international law and dangerous for the peace process”.
“I urged the prime minister to show courage in his dealings with the Palestinians to get us out of the current dead end,” Macron said after talks in Paris with the Israeli leader.
“Peace does not depend on the United States alone… it depends on the capacity of the two Israeli and Palestinian leaders to do so,” the French leader said.
Netanyahu has praised Trump’s decision as “historic” and he explained Sunday that Jerusalem “has always been our capital and it has never been the capital of any other people”.
“It has been the capital of Israel for 3,000 years, it has been the capital of the Jewish state for 70 years. We respect your history and your choices and we know that as friends you respect ours. I think this is also central for peace,” he said.
“The sooner the Palestinians come to grips with this reality, the sooner we’ll move toward peace.”
Before leaving Israel, Netanyahu had taken aim at what he called Europe’s “hypocrisy”, for condemning Trump’s statement, but not “the rockets fired at Israel or the terrible incitement against it”.
Pointedly, Macron began his pre-prepared remarks with a clear condemnation “with the greatest of clarity of all forms of attacks in the last hours and days against Israel”.
Despite the obvious differences between the 39-year-old French leader and the Israeli hardliner, there were also attempts to show they had developed a good early working relationship and held common views.