Israel took an unusually harsh tone as it slammed the European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton for disproportionately singling out Israel in her statement of concern about the peace process.
“Luckily, the European Union knows how to recognize critical problems in the world and to deal with them quickly and decisively,” Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said ironically on Friday.
“While the world struggles to solve the crisis in Ukraine, while innocent people are slaughtered in Syria, while suicide bombings continue in Iraq, the EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has issued a statement about the real danger to world peace and has called on Israel to reverse its actions against the Palestinians,” Liberman said.
In a statement Ashton issued on Friday she spoke about Israeli and Palestinian actions.
She said she had “followed with concern the recent events in the West Bank, including in east Jerusalem, which are not conducive to the climate of trust and cooperation needed for the current peace negotiations to succeed.”
But she spent only 26 words condemning Monday’s pre-Passover attack in which the Israeli Baruch Mizrahi was shot to death by a Palestinian terrorist as he drove with his family to a Seder in the Kiryat Arba settlement.
In contrast, 99 words of her statement dealt with Israeli actions in the West Bank, including settlement activity and the confiscation of EU humanitarian equipment provided to Palestinians.
She spoke against the IDF’s decision this month to reclassify 100 hectares (247 acres) of survey land in the Gush Etzion region as state land. She was upset by the authorization the Defense Ministry granted to Jewish families to move into a four-story apartment building in Hebron, which they had purchased.
An Israeli official said Saturday night “it’s a shame that the brutal murder was only worth a by-the-way mention in Catherine Ashton’s statement.”
The official took issue with the EU’s failure to chastise the Palestinians for taking steps to shore-up their legal standing as a state by affirming 15 international covenants and treaties.
In doing so, the Palestinians violated their agreement with Israel, but “until this moment Ashton has not dealt with this subject,” the official said.
The official accused the Palestinians of taking these unilateral steps rather than making the necessary decisions to continue the peace process. “It comes as no surprise that Ms. Ashton has ignored the responsibility of the Palestinians in the current crisis.”
The exchange of barbs between Israel and the EU comes as the US is attempting to rescue the peace process.
Israel and the Palestinians had agreed to a negotiating period that ends April 29.
The US had initially hoped to arrive at a final-status agreement by then. It spoke of publishing a framework document that would set out the principles for a continued negotiations. But at present it would simply like to see both parties agree to keep talking.
The Palestinians want Israel to keep its promise to release 26 prisoners and to agree to further releases. Israel wants the Palestinians to rescind its 15 applications.
Israeli and Palestinian teams have tried to find a way to break the impasse. But they are meeting in an atmosphere of increasingly harsh rhetoric with no clear solution in sight.
Meretz leader Zehava Gal- On accused Liberman on Saturday of being willing to sacrifice Israel’s diplomatic relations with Europe to serve his narrow political interests.
“Meretz shares the EU and Ashton’s concerns about the breakdown of the diplomatic process and criticizes the middle finger the Israeli government is giving to the US and European governments’ efforts,” Gal-On said.
She said it is legitimate for Europe “to criticize Israeli policy, which in a time of trying to restart negotiations, is doing everything to torpedo them.”
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.