Netanyahu: Time for EU to get fully behind Kerry’s efforts

"If Hezbollah is not a terrorist group, what is?" PM asks EU foreign policy chief in sign of frustration.

June 20, 2013 21:12
3 minute read.
Netanyahu at meeting with Catherine Ashton, EU High Rep for Foreign Affairs, June 20, 2013.

Ashton and Netanyahu shake hands 370. (photo credit: Courtesy - GPO)


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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.

PM Netanyahu meets EU foereign policy chief Ashton (GPO)

“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 deal.”

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 undertaking.

“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.

Netanyahu, 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 Qom.

“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.

Reflecting deep 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 Syria.

They’re murdering civilians without let-up, including on European soil, as was discovered in Bulgaria, as they tried to do in Cyprus.”

In 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.

Ashton’s response to Netanyahu regarding Hezbollah: “I hear what you say.”

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