Italy and the Netherlands toned down a statement on the Middle East by EU
foreign ministers Monday that, even with their intervention, sharply criticized
Israel and settlement violence.
According to Western diplomats, the two
countries – led this time by Italy – moderated some of the language in the
three-page “Conclusions on the Middle East Peace Process” that emerged following
a monthly meeting in Brussels.
They also made sure that certain elements
favorable to Israel, such as references to Palestinian incitement and Israel’s
security needs, were inserted.
The statement reaffirmed the EU’s
commitment to a twostate solution and said it was a “crucial element” for
lasting peace and security in the region.
Just two days before the EU
meeting, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sent a letter to PA President Mahmoud
Abbas affirming in writing Israel’s commitment to a two-state solution. The
Western diplomat officials said the timing of that letter was most likely linked
to the EU foreign ministers’ meeting, and that the statement welcomed “the
exchange of letters between the parties.”
The officials said France,
Britain and Germany shepherded the conclusions through the EU, and it reflected
the EU’s new Middle East envoy Andreas Reinicke’s focus on maintaining the
viability of a two-state solution in face of what the Europeans are increasingly
concerned may be a closing window of opportunity.
“The viability of a
two-state solution must be maintained,” the statement read, “The EU expresses
deep concern about developments on the ground which threaten to make a two state
The statement then enumerated acts it said Israel
had taken that put the two-state solution in jeopardy. These steps included:
The marked acceleration of settlement construction since the end of the 10-month
moratorium in 2010.
• The formalization of the status of three outposts –
Rehalim, Bruchin and Sansana – and the proposal to relocate the Migron residents
to another hill “within the occupied Palestinian territory.”
and house demolitions in east Jerusalem, expansion of Givat Hamatos and Har
Homa, and the “prevention of peaceful Palestinian economic social or political
• Worsening the living condition of the Palestinians in Area
C, and limiting their ability to promote development there.
emphasis the EU has placed on Area C since career German diplomat Reinicke took
over his post in January, the statement said this area is critical to the
viability of a future Palestinian state, and called upon Israel to approve
Palestinian master plans there, “halt forced transfer of population” and
simplify administrative procedures.
Area C represents 62 percent of the
West Bank and is under full Israeli control.
“The EU will continue to
provide financial assistance for Palestinian development in Area C and expects
such investment to be protected for future use,” the statement read. “The EU
will engage with the government of Israel to work out improved mechanisms for
the implementation of the donor funded projects for the benefit of the
Palestinian population in Area C.”
One Israeli diplomatic official
complained that a number of individual EU countries have repeatedly asked Israel
for clarifications on policy in Area C, been given answers, and then simply
ignored the Israeli replies.
The Foreign Ministry issued a response to
the EU’s statement saying that they included “a long list of claims and
criticism which are based on a partial, biased and one-sided depiction of
realities on the ground. Such a public presentation does not contribute to
advance the process.”
According to the statement, Israel “is committed to
the well being of the Palestinian population and acts according to all relevant
In Area C, for instance, 119 projects were
authorized in 2011, through continuous dialogue with representatives of
countries and other donors.”
The EU statement’s comment on settlement
violence – expressing “deep concern” and calling for Israel to bring
perpetrators to justice – raised eyebrows in Jerusalem because the instances of
what had become known as “price-tag” retaliation actions have dropped
significantly over the last few months. One government official said it seemed
the EU was using the same boilerplate comments they used in the past even though
the reality had changed.
Western diplomatic officials said that while the
draft of the conclusions have been in the works for weeks, Israel and the US
“woke up relatively late” in trying to influence the wording of the
While Italy and the Netherlands did the heavy lifting for Israel
inside the EU bodies drafting the conclusions, other countries that frequently
go to bat for Israel in EU forums, such as the Czech Republic and Bulgaria, were
less active this time. The officials said this was due to the determination
shown by the British, French and especially the Germans in getting the wording
The officials said the document represented the prevalent
position of Berlin on the Middle East situation.
On the plus side,
Israeli officials pointed out that the document did take note of Israel’s
security concerns, the ongoing missile attacks from Gaza and Palestinian
“The EU and its member states reiterate their fundamental
commitment to the security of Israel, including with regard to vital threats in
the region,” the statement read. “The EU is appalled by recurring rocket attacks
from Gaza and condemns in the strongest terms violence deliberately targeting
civilians. The EU reiterates its call on all partners in the region for the
effective prevention of arms smuggling into Gaza.”
the statement called on the PA to end incitement and expressed “concern for
recent incidents of incitement in Palestinian media and
Meanwhile, Dani Dayan, head of the Council of Jewish
Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, responded by calling on the EU
to recognize the legitimacy of West Bank settlements.
“The time has come
for the European Union to recognize the flourishing settlements in Judea and
Samaria, that include four cities, six regional councils and 13 local councils
and more than 120 communities for a population of 360,000 Israelis. It is an
enterprise that is irreversible and a fait accompli,” he said.
respect to the request to allow Palestinians to build in Area C, Dayan said the
guidelines of Oslo determined that 98% of West Bank Palestinians live in Areas A
and B, which is autonomous and under the auspices of the PA. This includes
construction, he said.
Israel, in turn, he said, has the right to build
in Area C, where there is an overwhelming Jewish majority.
contributed to this report.