Palestinians Urge EU to Stop Holding Official Meetings With Israel in Jerusalem

As U.S. mulls moving embassy, EU urged to stop 'passive policy' on Israeli actions in East Jerusalem, hold meetings with Israelis only in Tel Aviv.

Israeli forces stand outside the gates of Jerusalem's Old City. 2017
Emil Salman

The Palestinians have called on EU nations to stop holding official meetings with Israel in Western Jerusalem, the part of the city held by Israel before the Six Day War. The demand was voiced in a letter attained by Haaretz and sent by senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat to EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini.

In the letter, Erekat voiced anger at the EU for accepting Israel's closure of Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem, and he called on the EU to end its "passive policy" on the issue which, he claimed, allowed Israel to "perpetuate and impose its illegal policies."

Erekat further wrote that "I respectfully request that meetings with Israeli diplomats take place in Tel Aviv and not in West Jerusalem until the Orient House is reopened and Palestinian officials are able to meet with their diplomatic counterparts in East Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Palestine.

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat (R) guides a tour organised by the Palestinian authorities for ambassadors based in Tel Aviv and consuls based in Jerusalem to show the development of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, on March 16, 2017, near the Palestinian village of Jalud. / AFP PHOTO / JAAFAR ASHTIYEH
JAAFAR ASHTIYEH/AFP

The Orient House, where the PLO once held official receptions, was closed by Israel in 2001 during the Second Intifada. Since then, Israel has strictly maintained a ban on all official Palestinian Authority activity in East Jerusalem.

Two weeks ago the police dispersed a women's conference over suspicions it was sponsored by the PA. Last week, a mapping office was temporarily shut down over suspected ties to the PA.

While European representatives serving in Israel avoid holding official meetings or tours beyond the Green Line in Jerusalem, they often visit the Foreign Ministry and other government ministries in the western part of the city. This despite the fact that Europe doesn't recognize West Jerusalem as Israel's capital and doesn't have an official mission there.

Moreover, annual EU reports have carried a recommendation to hold all meetings with senior Israeli officials outside Jerusalem, but it wasn't acted on. Diplomatic sources estimate that the letter seeks to prepare the ground for the possible transfer of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. By raising the demand, the Palestinians want to equate West Jerusalem to East Jerusalem.