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Netanyahu and Mogherini on Monday in Brussels
Netanyahu and Mogherini on Monday in Brussels
Stuart Richardson

On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to Brussels, the de facto capital of the European Union, to discuss his own country's de facto seat of power, Jerusalem. His visit to the city, the first by an Israeli prime minister in 22 years, comes just days after President Donald Trump's announcement that he was moving the U.S. embassy to the Holy City.

In Brussels, Netanyahu met with Federica Mogherini, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. While the Israeli government has welcomed the American move, Europe and much of the world fear it will harm the prospects for peace in the Middle East.

"We believe that the only realistic solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine is based on two states," Mogherini said in a briefing alongside Netanyahu. This includes recognizing "Jerusalem as the capital of both the State of Israel and the State of Palestine, along the "67 lines."

Among the the 28 EU member states, however, some are breaking rank. Czech President Milos Zeman slammed his European partners for not following the American example. "The European Union, cowards, are doing all they can so a pro-Palestinian terrorist movement can have supremacy over a pro-Israeli movement," the Times of Israel quoted Zeman as saying.

Last week, the Hungarian delegation to Brussels blocked an EU statement that expressed "serious concerns' about Trump's declaration. Hungary's objection, reported in the EUObserver, suggested that the Central European nation might follow the American example.

For Israel, it's a nothingburger

And in India, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi also refrained from categorically rejecting the move, as the Indian publication The Wire writes.

"India's position on Palestine is independent and consistent. It is shaped by our views and interests, and not determined by any third country," the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.

But though the White House decision spurred violent protests across the Middle East, some say it is not that significant. "Trump's was the first verbal description of Jerusalem as Israel's capital – but with the explicit proviso that this was no determination about borders and sovereignty in the city, which according to said longstanding US policy would be determined in negotiations," Gideon Remez, a fellow at the Hebrew University's Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace writes in the Times of Israel. "Trump's declaration, then, is for Israel a nothingburger."

If the move is insignificant to some, it begs the question as to why the Trump administration would do it now. Perhaps it is just a distraction. Trump's announcement last week diverted headlines from the guilty plea of his former national security-advisor Michael Flynn, and from persistent allegations of sexual misconduct against Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore and against Trump himself.

The announcement was also an early Hanukkah gift for Netanyahu, who is facing corruption charges back home, which sparked massive demonstrations in Tel Aviv over the last two weekends.

Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, celebrates the recapturing of Jerusalem by the Maccabees in the second century BC. Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital might have made Netanyahu feel like a modern-day hero, but the Maccabees didn't have Brussels to worry about.

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