Ashton and Netanyahu shake hands 370.
(photo credit: Courtesy - GPO)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu subtly signaled frustration with the EU on
Thursday, telling visiting European Union chief Catherine Ashton that he hopes
the EU will support intensive US efforts to restart the diplomatic process with
the Palestinians, even though the EU has repeatedly said that it backs US
Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts.
“Secretary Kerry is undertaking
an effort to resume direct negotiations without preconditions between the
parties,” Netanyahu said at the outset of a 90-minute meeting with Ashton in Jerusalem.
“That’s the right thing to do,” he continued. “Israel is ready
to resume these talks without preconditions today, yesterday and tomorrow. I
hope that President Abbas will do the same, and I hope that Europe will support
this effort because it’s the right thing to do.”
One Israeli official,
explaining Netanyahu’s statement, said that “the only time the Palestinian
Authority agreed to negotiate with Netanyahu was at the end of the settlement
freeze in 2010, when America and Europe spoke with one voice and said to the
Palestinians, ‘negotiate, this is ridiculous.’”
The official said that the sense
in Jerusalem was that if Kerry, who announced he will return to the region next
Thursday, is to succeed, “Europe and America have to both speak with one voice,
because if they don’t, if the Palestinians always think they have a European
safety net, [then] why negotiate? They will always think they can get a better
Israeli officials complained earlier this week that the Europeans
were “undermining” Kerry’s efforts by “obsessing” over the settlement
construction issue and giving the Palestinians the sense that they have a “blank
check” from the Europeans who will always aim their diplomatic pressure at
Israel, regardless of what the Palestinians do.
Ashton stressed in her
comments that she was “fully supportive of the work” that Kerry is
“I said this in Ramallah last night, I say it here in
Jerusalem, that we want this to be the way forward, to bring direct negotiations
and Europe will support that wholeheartedly,” Ashton said.
speaking at the closing session of the President’s Conference on Thursday
evening, said that a peace agreement that calls on Israel to compromise on its
security “will not hold.” During his speech to the conference – during which he
was interrupted by hecklers protesting the recent decision to export of 40% of
Israel’s natural gas finds – Netanyahu again related to the recent Iranian
elections, reiterating his position that president-elect Hassan Rohani
represents a change in style, but not substance.
“We cannot allow Iran to
achieve nuclear weapons,” he said. “I remind you that the Iranian people want a
better future and the election results showed that.” But the Iranian
leadership’s determination to develop its nuclear program prevents that better
future, he said.
At the outset of his meeting with Ashton, Netanyahu said
that despite the elections, the world must hold Iran’s feet “to the fire.” He
reiterated Israel’s three demands on Iran: to stop all enrichment, remove all
its nuclear material, and close down the Fordow nuclear facility near
“It’s not a question of political spin, but the spinning of
centrifuges,” he said.
“That has to stop.”
Netanyahu also took a
public swipe at the EU for not blacklisting Hezbollah.
Israeli frustration with the EU for not placing Hezbollah on its terrorist list,
Netanyahu said, “It’s hard to see how you cannot have a consensus on Hezbollah
as a terrorist organization.
If Hezbollah isn’t a terrorist organization,
I don’t know what is a terrorist organization.”
Netanyahu said Hezbollah
was “butchering people left and right across the world, and now in the cities of
They’re murdering civilians without let-up, including on European
soil, as was discovered in Bulgaria, as they tried to do in Cyprus.”
order for the EU to blacklist the group, it needs the consensus of all 27 EU
states – something that it has not been able to secure.
to Netanyahu regarding Hezbollah: “I hear what you say.”