Some of Israel’s best friends in Europe, such as Germany and the Netherlands,
are urging Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to freeze construction across the
Green Line as a way to bring the Palestinian Authority back to talks, western
diplomatic officials told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday.
according to the officials, is for Israel to refrain “from provocative action”
in order to pave the way for the Palestinians to accept the new Quartet
proposals and get them back to the negotiating table.
Ashton: New Gilo housing is 'an obstacle to peace'
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Netanyahu, in a
Rosh Hashana interview with the Post last week, ruled out another settlement
construction freeze, saying he tried that once, and “it didn’t help any.”
Netanyahu froze settlement construction for 10 months beginning in November
The western officials added that the recent Interior Ministry
decision to approve a new project of 1,100 housing units in the Jerusalem
neighborhood of Gilo, which is beyond the Green Line, will likely be mentioned
negatively in a statement the EU’s 27 foreign ministers will release after their
monthly meeting in Brussels on Monday.
According to the officials,
discussions are currently underway in the Belgian capital among the various EU
countries regarding how much prominence to give the Gilo project in that
The ministers are widely expected to endorse the recent
Quartet proposal for returning to talks, which was issued on September 23. Under
the proposal, Israel and the Palestinians are supposed to sit down by October 23
for a preparatory meeting to agree on an agenda for negotiations.
Quartet proposal calls on both parties at that meeting to commit to the
objective of reaching an agreement no later then the end of 2012, to come up
with concrete ideas on borders and security within 90 days, and to have made
“substantial progress” within six months.
Envoys from the Quartet, made
up of the US, EU, Russia and UN, are scheduled to meet Sunday in Brussels to
review developments since it issued its call, and chart out its next
While Israel formally accepted the Quartet formula, the
Palestinian Authority – though saying the proposal contained “encouraging
elements” – has not yet formally accepted it. PA spokesmen have said they would
only enter talks if Israel froze settlement construction and accepted the
pre-1967 lines as the baseline for negotiations.
Since the Interior
Ministry approved the Gilo plan last Tuesday, a number of European countries
have expressed their surprise and disappointment at the move to the Prime
Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry.
The western officials said
that for some of the countries most supportive of Israel in the EU – the Czech
Republic, Holland, Italy, Germany, Poland and Bulgaria – the move weakened their
ability to defend Israel’s position inside the EU.
“It has led to the
loss of a bit of trust,” one official said.
The officials also said there
was annoyance in a number of capitals that, after having worked against the PA’s
statehood recognition bid last month at the UN and oftentimes being criticized
domestically because of that move, Israel “undermined” those efforts by
announcing another project in Jerusalem beyond the Green Line.
the reason, the officials said, for German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s testy
phone call with Netanyahu over the weekend, saying that she could not comprehend
the approval of the plan a day after the Quartet proposal was unveiled.