Israel Accuses Sweden of Trying to Change EU Stance on Jerusalem

Since Sweden assumed the EU presidency, tensions have characterized its relations with Israel.

Israel has accused Sweden of trying to carry out a diplomatic coup aimed at altering the position of the European Union regarding the status of Jerusalem in a way that would define it officially as the capital of Palestine and Israel. The Foreign Ministry is trying to block the initiative among EU member states.

Senior officials in Jerusalem and European diplomats perceive the initiative as putting pressure on Israel in the current political impasse in the peace process.

A senior Israeli official said that earlier this week the Foreign Ministry relayed instructions to missions in EU countries, asking them to take action against the Swedish initiative on Jerusalem.

One of the telegrams (which Haaretz has seen) says reports have been received on statements by senior Swedish officials and on official documents Sweden has circulated, as the holder of the rotating EU presidency, referring to Jerusalem as the capital of two states - Israel and Palestine. The reference was to speeches by Sweden's representatives during the United Nations General Assembly meet six weeks ago and during discussions in Geneva, as well as in official announcements regarding the peace process in recent weeks.

The telegram also stated that some European Union countries have denied that the new phraseology was being implemented in cooperation with them. For their part, the Swedish officials claimed, according to the Foreign Ministry document, that they had gained the approval of EU member states as part of quiet consultations that they had carried out within the internal exchange of documents in the EU. A European diplomat noted that Sweden has claimed that its statements on Jerusalem reflect the position of the European Union and enjoy the full support of all country members.

"What is new is the position of the government of Israel on this issue," the diplomat said.

Initially, Israeli missions in Europe were instructed to investigate, discreetly, the position of the EU member states regarding the Swedish initiative, and whether this was an attempt at a diplomatic coup or an initiative that enjoys broad support.

Several days later, Israeli missions were instructed to issue a protest on the matter in every one of the EU member states and take action to block it.

In parallel, the deputy director at the Foreign Ministry in charge of Western Europe, Naor Gilon, met with the 27 ambassadors of EU countries in Israel and stressed that adopting such a view on Jerusalem predetermines the results of the negotiations on core issues in a permanent settlement with the Palestinians. European diplomats who attended the meeting with Gilon told Haaretz that the Foreign Ministry official had stressed that the Swedish initiative negatively affects the EU's ability to contribute and be part of the political process with the Palestinians.

"Jerusalem is a very sensitive issue," he said. "We have the feeling that a new position has been adopted in the process that bypasses the institutions of the European Union."

European diplomats say this is not a new position of the EU toward Israel, but a position that so far had only appeared on internal documents and was not made public as an official position.

"There is serious pressure from many sides in the EU to transform this unofficial position into an official one and to determine that a two-state solution will also apply on Jerusalem," the diplomats said.

Since Sweden assumed the EU presidency, tensions have characterized its relations with Israel.