Austrian Minister Cancels Trip to Israel, Refuses to Meet Israelis in ‘Occupied’ Jerusalem

Citing Israel’s 3,000 year-long connection to its capital Jerusalem, an Israeli minister maintained that all parts of the city are under Israeli sovereignty and everyone should recognize that- including Austria’s Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner.

Austria’s Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner canceled a planned trip to Israel over his refusal to meet an Israeli minister at a government office situated in eastern Jerusalem.

Mitterlehner, who also serves as Austria’s Minister of Science, Research and Economy, was scheduled to arrive in Israel on Sunday Israel for a four day trip to discuss various joint projects with Israel.

He was set to meet with Israeli Minister of Science, Technology and Space Ofir Akunis in his office, which is situated in eastern Jerusalem.

Science Minister Ofir Akunis

Minister Ofir Akunis (Twitter)

Mitterlehner refused to do so, claiming the area was occupied and requested to meet Akunis at the western part of the capital. The Austrian embassy in Israel said that they “never go to meetings that are outside the 1967 borders.”

“We could not overcome the declaration of where the meeting was assigned, because meetings which are outside the ’67 lines we do not attend,” the embassy said.

While Jerusalem was united following the 1967 Six-Day War, Austria and other countries do not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the capital’s east.

Akunis refused to move the meeting venue, and in response Mitterlehner canceled his entire trip.

“Austria will not divide Jerusalem,” Akunis stated in response to the cancellation. “With all due respect to the Austrian Minister of Science, united Jerusalem, Israel’s capital for the past 3,000 years, stands above any consideration.”

He added that Israel’s government complex in eastern Jerusalem is an inseparable part of Jerusalem by Israeli law. While he appreciated the Austrians, he said that if he agreed to “accept the demands of the guests, it would be as if I would have agreed to divide Jerusalem,which will never happen.”

“We will not divide Jerusalem, just as the Austrians will not divide Vienna,” he concluded.

In November, Akunis canceled his attendance at a joint event with the European Union in protest over the EU’s labeling of Israeli products from areas beyond the pre-1967 borders. Europe has not learned the lessons of history, Akunis stated.

By: Max Gelber, United with Israel
JNS contributed to this report.

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