Catherine Ashton and PM Netanyahu 311 (R).
(photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO)
Israeli leaders are expected to tell EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton,
when she arrives in the country on Thursday, that the EU’s “obsessive” focus on
settlements is “undermining” efforts to restart peace negotiations by giving the
Palestinians the impression that no matter what they do, European diplomatic
fire will always be aimed at Israel.
Ashton is scheduled to visit the
country as part of a regional tour that will also take her to Jordan, Lebanon,
Egypt and areas under the Palestinian Authority’s control.
stay in Jerusalem, she is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who is in charge of negotiations with the
One Israeli official said that Ashton will be told that if
the Europeans – no matter what the Palestinians do – persist in operating on
“auto pilot” and focus solely on settlements, labeling settlement products and
the need for Israel to transfer more of Area C to Palestinian control, then the
Palestinians will continue to feel that they have a “free pass” and will not be
held accountable by the Europeans for not returning to the table.
will be told that this policy is “undermining” US Secretary of State John
Kerry’s initiative to restart the negotiations, and that the EU needs to back
his efforts by making clear to the Palestinians that they do not have a blank
check from the Europeans, and that their patience is not
According to the official, the current atmosphere between
Jerusalem and Brussels is “not good,” a product not only of the EU’s policy
toward the settlements, but also because of its failure to place Hezbollah on
its list of terrorist organizations and because of Israel’s frustration with the
talks Ashton is leading with the Iranians in the name of the P5+1 (the US,
Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany).
“On the one hand, the
Europeans went very far with sanctions against Iran, but on the other hand,
there are problems with the talks because they have not changed anything on the
ground and only bought the Iranians more time,” the official
Regarding Hezbollah, since a consensus of all 27 EU nations is
needed to blacklist the organization, the EU’s failure to do so is not Ashton’s
fault. At the same time, the official added, the EU apparatus in Brussels could
do more to get those countries opposed – primarily Ireland and the Scandinavian
countries – to back the measure.
“She can be more vocal on this than in
the past,” he said.
Ashton, the official added, will be told that the
accumulative effect of all these issues – Israeli dissatisfaction with the EU
emphasis on settlements, anger over the failure of the EU to blacklist
Hezbollah, and frustration over the talks with Iran – is creating an atmosphere
in which Jerusalem is not sufficiently confident in the EU playing the central
role they are interested in playing in the diplomatic process.