Half of the European Union member states – 14 out of 28 – support labeling West
Bank settlement products, a senior European official told Israeli reporters in
Brussels on Tuesday.
His comments came on the eve of another American
push to advance Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
As of press time, US
Secretary of State John Kerry was scheduled to arrive in Israel late Wednesday
night after meeting with EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton in Brussels
earlier in the day. Her spokeswoman told The Jerusalem Post the EU was “fully
behind” the current effort to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
EU official told Israeli reporters that the Israeli-Palestinian talks were
progressing and were very serious.
His comments came amid speculation and
concern in the Israeli media that the talks were floundering and would not lead
to an agreement when the nine-month negotiating period ends in April.
reported on Sunday that the Palestinian Authority turned directly to Kerry and
threatened to bolt from the talks if Israel continued with construction projects
in West Bank settlements.
But the EU official had ominous words for both
Israel and the Palestinians should the talks break down. He said half the EU
would support further action against West Bank settlement products, and that the
EU could halt its financial assistance to the Palestinians if the talks
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told visiting
Israeli businessmen in Ramallah on Tuesday that he was committed to achieving peace and ending the conflict.
Abbas said he was committed to pursuing
peace talks with Israel until the April deadline set by the US
Abbas said the peace talks were aimed at establishing a
Palestinian state “on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its
Israel has consistently rejected the idea of a twostate
solution based on the pre-1967 lines, but has agreed to discuss all core issues
during the negotiations.
Kerry is due to meet with Abbas in Ramallah on
Thursday and with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem the next
Aside from the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, discussions about
Iran will also dominate Kerry’s conversation with Netanyahu.
The two men
are at odds over the US agreeing – together with other world powers – to ease
sanctions against Iran in order to secure a pledge from Tehran to dismantle its
nuclear weapons facilities and remove enriched uranium from the
Although Netanyahu has been vocal in his opposition to the deal,
he was quiet on Tuesday and did not mention Iran when he spoke at the
international Bible quiz for adults in Jerusalem.
“Even though the Bible
was written a long time ago, we – with our own hands – are writing the next
chapters in the fascinating history of our people,” he said at the
“This year’s quiz centers on ‘Love your neighbor as yourself and
the other is me.’ This not only includes accepting the convert and those who are
different. Children who are struggling with physical or mental
disabilities are part of us. Each one of them, young and old, has a soul given
to him by the Almighty and we, our people, understand and feel to the depths of
our heart this human partnership, this partnership and unity before God. We must
break down walls, lower barriers and attain – first and foremost – unity within
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman will meet this week in New
York with UN Secretary-General Ban Kimoon and US Ambassador to the UN Samantha
He will also deliver a speech at the Saban Forum in Washington on
Friday and meet with Kerry on Sunday. It is his first trip to the US since
returning to his post as foreign minister.
Liberman arrives at the UN
just after Israel agreed to reestablish ties with the UN Human Rights Council,
after it received an invitation on Monday to join its Western European and
Others Group in Geneva.
Kerry said of the invitation: “Israeli membership
in the WEOG in Geneva is overdue, and we welcome the decision to invite Israel
to join beginning January 1, 2014.”
“It goes without saying that at a
time when the scourge of global anti-Semitism is on the rise, it is more
important than ever for Israel to have a strong voice that can be heard
everywhere,” Kerry said.
“This is a particularly welcome development as
we work to end anti-Israel bias in the UN system. We will continue to speak out
for our close ally, Israel, and we will continue to support efforts to normalize
Israel’s treatment across the UN system as a full and equal member of the
community of nations.”