Shortly after returning from a meeting in Amman with Jordanian King Abdullah II, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu lashed out at the EU on Thursday, accusing it of “hypocrisy” in condemning settlement construction, but not the Palestinians for incitement or continued terrorism.
Netanyahu’s anger was sparked by an apparently coordinated EU move to summons Israel’s ambassadors in London, Paris, Rome and Madrid this week to protest the recent announcement of construction of 1,400 housing units
in the major settlement blocs and Jerusalem neighborhoods beyond the pre-1967 lines.
Calling the claim that settlements are an obstacle to a peace agreement “bogus,” Netanyahu – speaking at an annual reception in Jerusalem for foreign journalists – blasted the EU move, and asked when was the last time the EU countries called in the PLO ambassadors to “complain about incitement to Israel’s destruction,” or to protest that security officers from the Palestinian Authority were participating in terrorist attacks against innocent Israelis.
“I think it’s time stop the hypocrisy and inject some fairness in the discussion,” he said, adding that the EU imbalance does not promote peace, but actually pushes it further away because “it tells the Palestinians that they can engage in incitement and terror and not be held accountable.”
The prime minister, who took only three questions on topics he was informed about in advance, stressed that the settlement announcements did not breach any commitment that Israel took upon itself when it entered the talks with the Palestinians last July.
It was clear to both the Americans and the Palestinians that Israel undertook no restraints on construction, the prime minister said. This was an unspoken, unwritten part of the deal that was very clear to everyone, he said.
“Adding a few houses will not change the map an iota,” Netanyahu said.
He asked if the Palestinians were looking to create an “ethnically cleansed state.”
Netanyahu did not shed much light on his unannounced visit to Amman, his third secret meeting with the Jordanian monarch in a year, but a report of the meeting put out by the kingdom’s official Petra news agency indicated that the settlement issue was raised.
Abdullah, according to the report, “highlighted the importance for all concerned parties to work toward achieving a just and comprehensive peace by ensuring an appropriate atmosphere for the success of the negotiation process.”
Netanyahu described both his meeting and the status of Israeli-Jordanian relations as “excellent.” He said that they discussed the status of the negotiations, and that Jordan was an “intimate partner” in the process that will be directly affected by it. “Any peace arrangement we agree to and implement has to assure that the border between Israel and Jordan – our eastern security front – is always tranquil and safe,” he said.
He said that this was an interest for Israel, the Palestinians and the Jordanians.
Diplomatic officials said that Jordan was very concerned about the future security arrangements in the Jordan Valley, and according to some reports was not opposed – as the Palestinians are – to an Israeli security presence there following a peace accord and establishment of a Palestinian state.
Netanyahu, during his remarks to the foreign press, said that Israel’s concern was not only to ensure the security of the perimeter of a future Palestinian state, to prevent the smuggling of weapons, as happened in Gaza, but also to ensure that the Palestinians do not have the ability, as is currently the case in Gaza, to produce home-made weaponry that could be used against Israel.
If these issues were not addressed, there would be neither peace nor security, he said.
Netanyahu, who did not address Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s remarks about US Secretary of State John Kerry, said that he was committed to the negotiations, even though “they are not easy.”
According to the Petra press service, Netanyahu and Abdullah “discussed the peace process in the light of the ongoing negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis sponsored by the US administration.”
According to the Jordanian statement, Abdullah stressed the importance of “seizing the current opportunity and building on the efforts of US Secretary of State John Kerry to achieve tangible progress in peace negotiations, leading to the establishment of an independent and viable Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital as per the 1967 borders and in line with the international resolutions, the two-state solution and the Arab Peace Initiative.”
Abdullah said that “Jordan’s higher strategic interests are a top priority, especially those pertaining to final-status issues,” according to the statement.
The statement released by Netanyahu’s office said he “stressed the important role” Jordan has played in trying to reach an agreement. Netanyahu “emphasized that Israel places a premium on security arrangements, including Jordan’s interests, in any future agreement that will take into consideration the peace treaty between Jordan and Israel, signed 20 years ago.”
Abdullah’s meeting with Netanyahu came a week after similar meetings he held in Amman with both PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Kerry.