Netanyahu to Mogherini: ‘Jerusalem is not a settlement but our capital’

Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Federica Mogherini (L) in Jerusalem on November 7, 2014Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Federica Mogherini (L) in Jerusalem on November 7, 2014

The EU foreign affairs chief declares that Jerusalem ‘should be the capital of two states’

At a press conference with visiting EU foreign affairs chief, Federica Mogherini on Friday in Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed that Jerusalem is “not a settlement but our capital.”

“The neighbourhoods in which we are living, Jews are living and we’ve been building, have been there for close to 50 years by successive Israeli governments. Everybody knows that in any peace arrangement they will remain part of Israel,” he said, dismissed criticism of Israeli building in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Netanyahu claimed the conflict is not due to the issue of settlements or territory “but about our existence.” “It’s about the failure to recognize Israel in any boundary, in any border, in any configuration. That was and remains the core of this conflict, that is, the persistent refusal to recognize that the Jewish people have a right to a state of their own.”

He also said Israel “is committed to maintaining the status quo for religious access to all faiths.” “We rigorously maintain that and we are faced with a consistent campaign of vilification and slander that presents Israel as seeking to undermine the mosque, to change the procedures that are there. This is absolutely not our policy. We stand behind the status quo arrangements that have been there for many years. We will not allow them to be changed either by action or by legislation. We’ve been very clear about that,” he said.

He continued, “we stand by the rights of Jews to go to the Temple Mount. They pray in the Western Wall, but they do have a right to go there. We stand by the right of Muslims to go to the Temple Mount and pray in the al-Aqsa Mosque.”

Netanyahu also warned of the possibility that Iran might become a threshold nuclear state. “That would be a big mistake. If Iran is left with residual capacity to enrich uranium for a nuclear bomb, ultimately this will destabilize the world – not just our region, not just pose a direct threat at Israel, whom Iran spells out for eradication, but also I think for all the Middle East and well beyond the Middle East,” he said.

He also criticised as “irresponsible” European politicians who have called for a unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.
In a reference to Sweden’s recognition of a Palestinian state last month, he told Mogherni that it was totally “irresponsible” for European nations to take such a step.

“To give recognition to a Palestinian state that doesn’t either recognize the Jewish state or agrees to security arrangements that are necessary for its security and survival is irresponsible. And I hope that a more balanced and more responsible arrangement pursues,” he declared.

Mogherini, who made her first visit in the region since taking her new post this month, warned of the risk of a new wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence if there is no progress towards peace talks.

“The risk is that if we do not move forward on the political track, we will go back again and again to violence,” she declared at a joint press conference with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman at the King David hotel in Jerusalem.

“That’s why there is an urgency in moving forward on the dialogue. I think it has never been so dangerous for Israel to live here. As the situation is so dramatic, there are also opportunities because different actors in the region might share the perception of a threat and this might require a common understanding.”.

“I strongly believe that the EU has a potential political role to play here even more important than it was in the past. The EU stands at the side of Israel when it comes to its concern about the security of the Israeli citizens and we are ready and willing to work in the direction not only of resuming talks but also making sure that talks bring a two-state solution,” she said.

She added that “new settlements are an obstacle as we see it but we see also that there might be a political will to resume the talks and especially make sure that these talks bring to results for the sake of the security of the Israeli people first of all.”

She said she discussed with Lieberman a “shared vision” that there is a need for a regional approach. “Israel’s security and safety will never be guaranteed unless there is regional framework that allows that fully. The EU is ready to work in that direction with all its partners in the region.”

She stressed the need “to lower tensions, verbal and on the ground.” “What is happening and what has happened here in Jerusalem in the last week is extremely worrying. It is also worrying that after the ceasefire was reached in Cairo in August, we are still having difficulties in advancing with the direct talks,” she added.

“The European Union would always encourage direct talks, not unilateral steps on both sides, to find the solution of the two states: Israel living in full security, not only solving the Palestinian issue, but also with the Arab neighbours and the Palestinians having a state, a proper state.”

Mogherini visited Gaza and Ramallah on Saturday where she declared that “Jerusalem can be and should be the capital of two states.”, at a joint press conference with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.

“Jerusalem is not just a beautiful city, the challenge is to show that Jerusalem can be shared in peace and respect,” she said at a joint press conference with Hamdallah.

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

Mogherini also met with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.