Barak opposes Foreign Ministry's Europe slam

Defense minister says Israel must remain diplomatic in correcting friendly European leaders' mistakes.

December 22, 2011 15:25
2 minute read.
United Nations Security Council [file]

United Nations Security Council 311 (R). (photo credit: ERIC THAYER / Reuters)


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Defense Minister Ehud Barak responded Thursday to a Foreign Ministry statement that harshly criticized a recent European condemnation of Israeli settlement policy. Speaking to Israel Radio, Barak said that European countries are very relevant and are on our side on the important strategic issues.

The Foreign Ministry had said Wednesday that European countries are "bound to lose their credibility" and are making themselves "irrelevant.”

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Barak said that Israel must exercise diplomacy in informing friendly European leaders of their mistakes, but avoid entering into direct confrontations. He added that recent statements from Washington about the Iranian capability to build a bomb within a year are accurate, according to the Israel Radio report.

Israel’s anger had been triggered by a statement released on Tuesday by the four current EU members of the UN Security Council – France, Britain, Germany and Portugal – that forcefully condemned Israel’s recent announcements of building in the territories and east Jerusalem.

“All settlement activity, including in east Jerusalem, must cease immediately,” the statement said, calling on Israel to reverse these steps, and saying announcements of continued construction “send a devastating message.”

The statement also slammed “the disturbing escalation of violence by settlers,” saying they were “deliberately provocative actions” designed to aggravate tensions.

The statement welcomed Israeli condemnations of the “price-tag” violence, and called on Israel to fulfill its commitments to bring the “perpetrators to justice and to put an end to impunity.”

The statement continued: “The package of measures announced by Prime Minister [Binyamin] Netanyahu in response to settler violence goes in the right direction. We look forward to seeing the results of these measures, and to seeing those behind the violence punished to the full extent of the law.”

However, the part of the statement that most infuriated Jerusalem was its backing of the Palestinian interpretation of the Quartet’s September 23 statement, which set out a framework for restarting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

“We call the parties to present as soon as possible to the Quartet comprehensive proposals on territory and security,” the council members said.

This contradicted a statement put out by representatives of the Quartet – which is made up of the US, EU, Russia and UN – just last week, which said these comprehensive proposals should be presented by the sides to each other in direct talks.

The Palestinians said earlier this month that while they have presented the Quartet with comprehensive proposals on security and territory, Israel has refused to do so, creating the impression that Jerusalem was obstructing the process.

Israel’s position is that these comprehensive proposals need to come out of negotiations between the sides, and not as a result of the Quartet mediating between them. The US has publicly backed this position.

Foreign Ministry Deputy Director-General for Europe Rafi Shutz said Thursday that Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was not responsible for a harsh Wednesday statement criticizing Europe's condemnation of Israeli settlement policy, according to Army Radio.

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