(JNS.org) The administrative zone encompassing the city of Paris, France’s most populous, has signed to cooperate with East Jerusalem in a move to send a “political message” of solidarity to the Palestinians.
According to the website of the Regional Council of Île-de-France, that body voted Sept. 28 in favor of a “decentralized cooperation agreement” with East Jerusalem. This is “the first French community to sign an agreement of cooperation with the Arab part of the holy city,” a statement said, and the agreement will be officially signed this month.
Israeli government officials said France reached the agreement without consulting them. Île-de-France has earmarked 300,000 euros to support the building of institutions, as well as vocational training, entrepreneurship, culture, health and social action in this area of Jerusalem.
“There is very high sensitivity to the Palestinian cause in France... This symbolic move is certainly intended to send a political message,” said French Green Party councilman Jacques Picard, one of the politicians behind the agreement, according to the Times of Israel. “If such regional exchanges can contribute to peace, all the better.”
However, the agreement has been criticized by the Israeli government, which views all of Jerusalem as its capital and does not view East Jerusalem, where predominantly Palestinians live, as a separate civic entity. Paul Hirschon, a spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, said that the French council “seems intent on ignoring reality and living in a make-believe world.” Ultimately, such initiatives may have the effect of discouraging Palestinians from negotiating with Israel, he said.