Nir Barkat and Tomas SandellJerusalem, March 14th 2017 – The European Coalition for Israel (ECI) has just concluded a unique mission to Jerusalem as preparations are being made for the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem later this spring. The mission included official visits to the President of the State of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, as well as to the office of the Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, and to the Special UN Envoy to the Middle East Peace Process, Nikolay Mladenov.

The same consistent message of ECI in all three meetings was that a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty is the only way to preserve peace and co-existence in the land and guarantee full freedom for people of all backgrounds, faiths and creeds in the Holy City.

This message was conveyed by the Chairman, Leon Meijer, of Christians for Israel International (C4I) – a founding partner of ECI – in the meeting with President Rivlin on Tuesday morning in which ECI Legal Counsel Andrew Tucker also participated. In his remarks President Rivlin cited his long family lineage based in Jerusalem as an example of an unbroken Jewish presence in the Holy City.  During the meeting Leon Meijer and Andrew Tucker also presented the new initiative by ECI to issue an open letter, as preparations are being made for the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, in support of its message that Jerusalem must remain united. The open letter will be launched in the coming days and will then be circulated for signatories across the world. ECI Founding Director Tomas Sandell was prevented from participating in the meeting due to an airport strike in Helsinki.

In a later meeting with the Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, and his Chief of Staff, Michal Shalem, on Wednesday morning, Sandell presented the work of ECI and prior initiatives of ECI dating back to 2011 in support for a united Jerusalem. He was warmly received by the Mayor who promised to do everything in his power to attend the upcoming ECI Annual Policy Conference in Brussels on March 30th as the keynote speaker. At the meeting Sandell received a “Lion of Jerusalem” pin from the Mayor in recognition of the work done by ECI over the years in support for Jerusalem.

In a final meeting on Friday afternoon with the UN Special Envoy to the Middle East Peace Process, Nikolay Mladenov, Sandell was received in the UN Compound in what used to be the government house of the British Mandatory Power. Expressing his support for the peace process and his concern for lack of progress on both sides, Mladenov nevertheless expressed his appreciation for the work of ECI at the United Nations through the Forum for Cultural Diplomacy which has brought together many stakeholders in the recognition of Jewish holidays.

Sandell repeated the ECI message for Jerusalem to remain united as the only way to preserve peace and co-existence in Jerusalem and to ensure full respect for basic human rights and freedoms for people of all backgrounds, faiths and creeds. Mladenov quoted his boss, the new UN Secretary-General António Guterres, in saying that, while the city is holy to three religions, there should be no doubt that Jerusalem is the site of the first and the second Jewish temple, in direct contradiction to a recent UNESCO resolution which denied all historical links between the Jewish people and Jerusalem.

Stressing the need for reconciliation between Israel and the Palestinians, Mladenov appealed for caution in relation to any festivities on Jerusalem Day, but suggested that the UN Partition Plan of November 29th 1947 could and should be commemorated. The UN Partition Plan acknowledged the right of the Jewish people to their own homeland within the area of the British Mandate for Palestine and was a prerequisite for the declaration of an independent State of Israel which followed six months later.

The visit to Jerusalem was part of a coordinated ECI campaign in support of keeping the City of Jerusalem united under Israeli sovereignty. On Thursday March 30th, ECI will bring this same consistent message to the European Parliament in Brussels where Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat is now scheduled as the keynote speaker alongside officials of the European Union, members of the European Parliament and Israeli diplomats.