'Israel has shown genuine desire to renew negotiations'

By
February 22, 2011 15:47

Lieberman at EU says "during this period Palestinians went in opposite direction, have done everything to undermine ties.




Lieberman speaks at a press conference, Tuesday

Lieberman EU 311 AP. (photo credit: Associated Press)

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman went on the offensive at the annual EUIsrael Association Council meeting in Brussels on Tuesday, presenting the EU foreign ministers with a document contrasting Israel’s confidence- building measures toward the Palestinians with the PA’s “confrontational conduct,” and urging the EU not to encourage Palestinian provocations.

As Lieberman entered the press room in Brussels for a media conference with Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi, an unidentified protester stood in front of him and said he wanted to perform a citizen’s arrest, shouting that Lieberman should stand trial for war crimes. The demonstrator was quickly ushered out by security personnel.

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Martonyi said at the press conference that the upheavals in the Middle East highlight the importance of resuming the stalled diplomatic process with the Palestinians.

Lieberman said it was important to resume direct peace talks with the Palestinian Authority, but that “poverty and misery” are the main reasons for the unrest in Arab countries, and that there was no link between that turmoil and the Israeli- Palestinian diplomatic process.

Martonyi, whose country currently chairs the EU, said: “These are core issues. They are the heart of the matter.

We all have to understand that time is pressing. The dramatic changes and regional instability which results from them make the progress on the peace process more imperative and more urgent than ever before.”

During the meeting, held annually between the Israeli foreign minister and his EU counterparts, Lieberman said that since the establishment of the Netanyahu government Israel has taken numerous steps to improve life for the Palestinians and shown a genuine desire to renew negotiations.

By contrast, he said, “during this time the Palestinians have worked in the opposite direction and have done everything to upset relations between the sides, in the belief that this will win them sympathy and support in the international community.”

Lieberman gave the EU foreign ministers a paper prepared by the Israeli Foreign Ministry on “The Palestinian Authority’s political offensive against the State of Israel,” which details the PA’s activities over the past two years.

The Palestinians were “violating the Oslo Accords” by attempting to change the status of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, inciting against Israel, acting against Israel within the international organizations, organizing boycotts, glorifying suicide terrorists and encouraging terrorism, the paper said.

Lieberman told his EU counterparts, a number of whose countries have recently upgraded the status of the Palestinian delegations in their capitals, that those who genuinely want to bring about a renewal of negotiations need to condemn the Palestinian actions.

“Whoever truly wishes to improve Israeli-Palestinian relations and to bring about a renewal of sincere, effective negotiations between the sides must condemn the Palestinians for their actions and for their brazen violation of agreements signed with Israel, and let them know that their attempts to unilaterally establish a fait accompli will not succeed,” Lieberman said.

“The international community and the European countries in particular have a responsibility to urge the Palestinians to return to negotiating, rather than encouraging them to continue their provocations, which will only lead to a dead end that will harm the Palestinians more than it will harm Israel,” he said.

The paper, which the Foreign Ministry plans to present to members of the US Congress as well as to members of European parliaments, says that while the Palestinians have been confronting Israel, the Netanyahu government has taken numerous steps to benefit the Palestinians, including helping to improve and strengthen the Palestinian economy; reducing roadblocks; upgrading goods crossings; encouraging Palestinian business activity; increasing the numbers of Palestinians employed in Israel; promotion infrastructure, electricity and water projects; and engaging in security cooperation with the PA.

The paper also described a series of steps Israel took to ease the lives of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip: promotion of health and education projects: upgrading the crossings for goods; providing entry permits into Israel for businessmen; increasing exports from the Gaza Strip; and agreeing to the “Blair package” to improve infrastructure in the Strip.

The EU, at least judging from a statement it issued after the meeting, was unimpressed.

The EU “remains extremely concerned by the prevailing situation in Gaza,” and called for “the immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from Gaza. Despite some progress following the decision of the Israeli government of June 20, 2010, to ease the closure, changes on the ground have been limited and insufficient so far,” the EU statement read.

It called for concluding diplomatic negotiations with the Palestinians by September, and for the parties to resume negotiations on all final-status issues while “respecting previous agreement and understandings.”

This is at odds with the Netanyahu government’s position, which is that the talks will not pick up where they left off under former prime minister Ehud Olmert.

The statement again slammed the settlements, and said “a way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states.”

The statement also related to the recent discussion in the Knesset about NGOs supported by foreign governments, mostly from EU countries.

“The EU calls on Israel to promote its active NGO sector and to refrain from actions which may significantly curtail its freedoms,” the statement said. “In this context, the EU is concerned about the proposed parliamentary inquiry committee to investigate NGO funding and the draft law on recipients of financial support from foreign political entities.”

On Monday, the Knesset passed legislation requiring NGO transparency, but dropped plans to form a parliamentary committee to examine where various NGOs were getting their funds.

AP contributed to this report.


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