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Ayalon extends olive branch after FM attacks on EU
By HERB KEINON
12/17/2012
Deputy foreign minister says Israeli-European ties as important on many different levels after harsh Liberman comments.
 
Characterizing Israeli-European ties as important on many different levels, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon offered an olive branch to the EU Sunday, just days after outgoing foreign minister Avigdor Liberman slammed Europe for what he said were biased polices toward Israel.

“Israel-Europe ties are very important on a strategic, political, economic and cultural level, and therefore we should have a serious and intensive – but not public – dialogue,” Ayalon said at a meeting with EU Middle East envoy Andreas Reinicke.

Ayalon, who Liberman unceremoniously left off the joint Likud Beytenu list for the upcoming elections, said Israel would continue to engage in quiet diplomacy with the EU to work out all the issues on their joint agenda.

“There are more things we have in common than that separates us,” Ayalon said.

Liberman slammed the Europeans in two public speeches last week, making comparisons in one between the behavior of certain EU countries now and their actions during the Holocaust, and saying at The Jerusalem Post’s Diplomatic Conference that many world leaders would be willing to sacrifice Israel instantly to appease radical Islamists and buy themselves quiet.

Ayalon told Reinicke that Israel was disappointed with how the EU voted on November 29 on the Palestinian statehood bid at the UN General Assembly, with the Czech Republic being the only EU state opposing the matter. He also said Jerusalem was disappointed with the EU’s “disproportionate” reaction to Israel’s announcement of plans to construct some 3,000 units in east Jerusalem and the settlement blocs, and to further the planning of the E1 section linking Jerusalem to Ma’aleh Adumim.

The EU’s positions on these matters were “counterproductive” and gave the Palestinians “more of a reason to do whatever they want, and feel they can get away with it,” Ayalon said.

In an apparent effort to explain to Ayalon why the EU reacted so strongly and with such anger to Israel’s announcement of its settlement plans, Reinicke indicated that the EU viewed a two-state solution as being in its own security interests, and would forcefully oppose anything that seemed to obstruct achieving that goal.

Reinicke, who has kept a very low profile since taking his post in January, meets with Israeli officials about once every three months.

Even though Liberman resigned, and by law Ayalon – as deputy foreign minister – must leave with him, the Prime Minister’s Office announced Sunday that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will inform the Knesset, which is to sit in special session in the coming days, that he intends to extend Ayalon’s tenure until a new government is formed following the January 22 elections.

This move is being taken with Liberman’s consent.
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