Benjamin Netanyahu Visits Europe after US Recognition of Jerusalem
Albanian Daily News
Published December 10, 2017
As Benjamin Netanyahu travelled to Europe, violent protests erupted near the US embassy in Beirut. Photograph: Mohamed Azakir/ReutersThe Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has arrived in Europe on his first foreign trip since US recognition of Jerusalem as the the country's capital triggered a wave of condemnation and protest.
The visit comes as tensions remain high between Israelis and Palestinians over the issue, both in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories and more widely in the region.
In Jerusalem police reported that a 25-year old security guard was seriously injured in stabbing attack on Jaffa Street outside at the city's central bus station. According to Israeli media the attacker was a 24 year old Palestinian man.
In what was claimed to be video footage of the attack, the attacker is seen standing and calmly removing his jacket before suddenly lurching at the victim standing next to him and stabbing him once in the chest before fleeing.
In Beirut, meanwhile, Lebanese security forces broke up a protest outside the heavily guarded US Embassy with tear gas after demonstrators pelted them with stones.
Protesters, some of them waving Palestinian flags, lit fires in the street and threw objects at members of the security forces who had barricaded the main road to the embassy.
Addressing the protesters, the head of the Lebanese Communist party, Hanna Gharib, declared Washington "the enemy of Palestine" the embassy "a symbol of imperialist aggression" that must be closed.
The US president's recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital has infuriated the Arab world and upset western allies, who say it is a blow to peace efforts and risks causing further unrest in the Middle East.
The Vatican on Sunday said Pope Francis was praying so that "leaders of nations" commit themselves to work to "avert a new spiral of violence" over Jerusalem. Its statement reiterated the Vatican position on "the essential need for respecting the status quo."
Most countries consider East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed after capturing it in 1967, to be occupied territory. They say the status of the city should be left to be decided at future Israeli-Palestinian talks. Israel says that all of Jerusalem is its capital, but Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent state.
Netanyahu is to meet the French president, Emanuel Macron, in Paris on Sunday on Monday due to travel Brussels where he will meet the EU foreign policy chief, Frederica Mogherini and hold a working breakfast with 27 EU foreign ministers.
Netanyahu was critical of EU leaders, who have also condemned the building of Israeli settlements in West Bank, as he left Israel late on Saturday.
"While I respect Europe, I am not prepared to accept a double standard from it," said Netanyahu, who has also faced heavy criticism from European leaders over Israeli settlement building.
"I hear voices from there condemning President Trump's historic statement, but I have not heard condemnations of the rockets fired at Israel or the terrible incitement against it.
"I am not prepared to accept this hypocrisy," he said.
Several rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israel on Thursday and Friday following Trump's declaration, leading Israel to respond with airstrikes that killed two people.
In recent years France has emerged as a key interlocutor for Palestinians in international forums as the Palestinian leadership has sought to internationalise a peace process for long dominated by US mediation.
Earlier this year over 70 countries and international organisations attended a French-convened conference in Paris aimed at breathing new life into the Middle East peace process.
While Macron has said France is a friend and ally of Israel, he has in the past also been very sharply critical of the Netanyahu government.
Ahead of Netanyahu's visit, Macron and Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, spoke by telephone about a joint diplomatic approach to try and persuade the US to row back on Jerusalem.
Arab League foreign ministers met for hours on Saturday to denounce the US decision as illegitimate and unlawful, but appeared to have held back from taking any new measures.
Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit said Trump's decision was "against international law and raises questions over American efforts to support peace" between Palestine and Israel.
The shift in US policy "undermines Arab confidence" in the Trump administration and "amounts to the legalisation" of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, he added.
The ministers reiterated that such a move had no legal impact and was "void", adding: "it deepens tension, ignites anger and threatens to plunge region into more violence and chaos."
The ministers agreed to "demand that the United States rescind its decision on Jerusalem ... and the calling on the international community to recognise the state of Palestine ... with east Jerusalem as its capital," said the statement.
Lebanon's Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil went further than most by proposing during the emergency meeting that Arab nations should consider imposing economic sanctions against the US to prevent it moving its Israel embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
"Pre-emptive measures (must be) taken ... beginning with diplomatic measures, then political, then economic and financial sanctions," he said, without giving specific details.
Iraq also issued a statement saying it was disappointed the meeting did not take more radical measures.
But even countries traditionally close to the US such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE were blunt in their criticism of what the White House may have unleashed.
UAE Minister of State Anwar Gargash warned Trump's decision was "a gift to radicalism as radicals will use it to fan the language of hate".
He added: "I am not worried about today, tomorrow and the day after, I am worried that some people will see the decision as a turning point, like the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. I hope this is not a watershed, but it is a worry."
Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahayan also warned The US move could throw a lifebuoy to terrorist and armed groups, which have begun to lose ground in the region:.
(Source: The Guardian)