Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas could address European heads of state in the near future as part of a push by the international community to jump-start the peace process.
It would be Netanyahu’s first address to the EU Council as premier, even though he has spoken three times before a joint session of Congress.
To date, no Israeli prime minister has addressed the EU since its inception in 1993. In 1995, Shimon Peres, who was then the foreign minister and acting prime minister, visited Brussels, but did not formally speak to the body as a whole.
The possibility of an EU address was first raised by Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades during his visit to Jerusalem last month, and he raised it again during Netanyahu’s visit to his island country on Tuesday.
“I would welcome the opportunity to present Israel’s position to the EU,” Netanyahu said. “I think this is a very worthwhile initiative that you, Nicos, have brought up.”
“We’re pursuing this [and will] continue to discuss this with the visit of [EU Council President Donald] Tusk in Israel in a few weeks,” Netanyahu said.
He noted, however, that the resumption of direct talks were a necessary component of the peace process.
“Peace also depends on the willingness of parties to talk to one another and to try to put ancient issues behind them or at least resolve them in a way that they don’t prevent us from seizing the future,” he said.
Last week, Interior Minister Silvan Shalom and PLO chief negotiator Saeb Erekat met in Amman without breaking the impasse in the peace talks that have been frozen since April 2014.
The PLO is concerned, however, by continued reports of secret talks between some Palestinians and Israelis, and is scheduled to hold a meeting in Ramallah in the coming days on the issue.
Jamil Shehadeh, member of the PLO Executive Committee, said on Tuesday that he and his colleagues were surprised to hear about the meetings.
“The Executive Committee will demand answers concerning the meetings with the Israelis,” Shehadeh said.
He pointed out that the Palestinian leadership had decided to refrain from holding such meetings, especially in the aftermath of the “increased Israeli aggression against the Palestinians.”
Under the current circumstances, he added, the Israeli government would not meet any of the Palestinian conditions for the resumption of the peace talks, particularly a full cessation of construction in settlements and the release of Palestinian prisoners.
“The next meeting of the PLO Executive Committee will be an important one,” he said. “We will discuss a number of issues, including the latest developments in the Palestinian arena, reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas and international efforts to revive the peace process.”
He did not say when the meeting would take place.
Another senior PLO official, Tayseer Khaled, called on Tuesday for an immediate halt to Israeli-Palestinian meetings, which, he said, were taking place behind the back of the Palestinian leading institutions.
Khaled complained that the secret meetings, especially the last one between Erekat and Shalom in Jordan, were in violation of decisions taken by the PLO Executive Committee and Central Council.
He noted that the two PLO bodies had emphasized that the resumption of the peace talks requires an Israeli commitment to stop all settlement activities in the West Bank and Jerusalem and honor international laws and resolutions.
The secret meetings cause grave damage to the interests of the Palestinians and offer a free service to Netanyahu’s government, “which is facing international pressure and isolation,” he added.