Austrian Science Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner has cancelled a meeting scheduled for next week with his Israeli counterpart in eastern Jerusalem because it is in “occupied” territory.”
Israeli Science Minister Ofir Akunis said Friday:
Either the meeting will take place in eastern Jerusalem or it won’t take place anywhere. Austria will not divide Jerusalem.
With all due respect to the Austrian minister, Jerusalem has been the united capital of Israel since 3,000 year ago…. If I were to accept his demand, it would be as if I were dividing Jerusalem, something that never will happen.
We are not going to divide Jerusalem just like Austria is not going to divide Vienna.
Akunis and Mitterlehner were to sign scientific agreements, but meeting with an Israeli official in eastern Jerusalem is contrary to the European position on Jerusalem as well as the Golan Heights, Judea and Samaria, despite a large Jewish presence in ares of Jerusalem that the West does not recognize as Israeli..
The only prominent Western official to have met Israeli officials in eastern Jerusalem is Canada’s John Baird, when he was a minister in 2013 and met with Tzipi Livni at her Justice Ministry offices. The Palestinian Authority angrily condemned Canada for the meeting.
Mitterlehner’s snub of united Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is no different from that of other European and American official who also do not meet with Israeli counterparts in areas they do not recognize.
The difference this time is the one of timing as well as the official reaction by Akunis, a strongly nationalist Likud minister. Israel is taking the offense against last month’s European Union Commission decision that prohibit the “Made in Israel” label from appearing on products made by Jews in the Golan Heights, Judea and Samaria.
The Commission now requires the labels to read “made in settlements.”
Austria is one of the countries that is accelerating moves to adopt the policy, the Austrian DerStandard reported Friday.
Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders, one of the leaders in the move to label “settlement” products, was forced to cancel a visit to Israel after the office of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who officially also is Foreign Minister, said he would not meet with the Belgian official.