east jerusalem - Olivier Fitoussi - December 25 2010
Demonstration against settlement in East Jerusalem. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi
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Peace activists who are closely monitoring the "Judaizing" process in East Jerusalem report that since U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was greeted in Jerusalem last March by the announcement of a new building plan for Ramat Shlomo, there has been a sharp decrease in the building of Jewish residences in the eastern part of the city.

In the meantime, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat confirms, and complains, that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been pressuring him to abandon megalomaniacal plans to demolish Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem in order to build tourist attractions and shopping malls. Moreover, in negotiations that Netanyahu and his associates have conducted with U.S. officials about the building freeze in the settlements, Netanyahu has abandoned his insistence that no such freeze apply to East Jerusalem.

The far-ranging, sharply worded recommendations in the report drafted by European Union consul generals do not therefore point to a dramatic, negative change in Israel's policy toward Jerusalem. Instead, they reflect a dramatic, negative change in the international community's attitude toward Israel in general, and East Jerusalem in particular.

The European Union report should be viewed in the context of the news that more and more countries are inclined to recognize a Palestinian state along the borders of June 4, 1967. It will be recalled that on this date, the border ran west of Silwan, which we now refer to the City of David, and west of the Western Wall. This is the context in which the report recommends that Europe should begin to treat the eastern part of the city as the capital of Palestine. This is what happens when peace negotiations remain stalled.

As long as Israel is given the benefit of the doubt regarding its willingness to conduct serious negotiations about the future of the territories and East Jerusalem, then the Europeans, and the rest of the world, are willing to turn a blind eye to disruptions in the status quo of the only capital city in the world that hosts several consulates but not a single embassy.

Whether the European Union will adopt the consuls' practical recommendations such as boycotting products manufactured in Israeli factories in East Jerusalem or drafting blacklists of violent settlers (to preclude their entry to EU states ) remains in doubt. In a negative scenario (from the Netanyahu government's standpoint ), the report will lead to more discussions among European leaders; European countries may release another statement denouncing Israel's construction policies, and home demolition policies, in East Jerusalem.

The consuls' recommendations will have substantive impact only if U.S. President Barack Obama sends a signal to European political leaders that they should make clear to the Israelis what could happen if Uncle Sam loses his patience with them.