Israel smiles as EU voices full support for Kerry

J'lem applauds EU for not publishing detailed “conclusions” critical of Israel, after meeting of EU foreign ministers.

Ashton and Netanyahu shake hands 370 (photo credit: Courtesy - GPO)
Ashton and Netanyahu shake hands 370
(photo credit: Courtesy - GPO)
Jerusalem applauded the European Union on Monday for fully supporting US Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to restart negotiations, and not detailed “conclusions” critical of Israel, after a meeting of their foreign ministers.
Israel feared conclusions similar to what the EU issued on the Middle East in May 2012 – and which some EU countries wanted to release this time as well – would have given the Palestinians hope there was an alternative to Kerry’s proposals.
After a meeting of the 27 EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton made clear that no resolutions on the Middle East would be issued, saying “We fully support the current efforts of the US in support of a resumption of direct negotiations, and we welcome very much the personal involvement and engagement of Secretary Kerry.”
Ashton, who was in Jerusalem and the region last week, said she reiterated during the foreign ministers meeting the importance of the Kerry initiative, “and the importance of our support for it.”
Kerry is scheduled to arrive back in the region on Thursday to push ahead with efforts to get Israel and the Palestinians back to negotiations. Jerusalem launched an intensive lobbying campaign last week to convince the EU countries that this was not the time to issue a detailed EU resolution on the Middle East that would be highly critical of Israel. It argued that this would undermine Kerry’s efforts, by giving the Palestinians the sense that if they rejected Kerry’s proposals to restart talks, they would get both an understanding ear and a better deal from the Europeans.
According to Israeli officials, this message was forcefully conveyed by Netanyahu to Ashton during their meeting last Thursday.
Ashton made clear, however, that while the EU foreign ministers did not issue a statement this time, “we will come back to this issue in July.” She said that Monday’s discussion “was about how we best support the process right now.”
Israel’s position is that the best way to support the process at the present time is for the Europeans to publicly and loudly give full backing to Kerry.
One Israeli official applauded the EU decision, saying it was important “precisely because this process succeeds when Europe works in coordination with America.” The official said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to enter negotiations in September 2010 with Netanyahu at the very end of a 10-month settlement freeze, only because both the US and the Europeans made clear to him that it was time.
“If Abbas thinks there is a European safety net, he will not enter the talks,” the official said. “It is critical that all those who want to see a resumption of talks give support to Kerry, and do not give the Palestinians excuses not to return to the talks.”
According to diplomatic sources, the EU was divided about whether or not to issue detailed conclusions, with Ireland, Denmark and Malta in favor, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Slovakia and Romania against, and Spain and Greece pressing for a middle ground.