Israel: EU call to equality ‘kicking at an open door'

EU foreign policy chief Ashton says Europe expects Israel to guarantee equal rights for all citizens, whether Jewish or not.

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October 13, 2010 06:42
2 minute read.
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Sec

catherine ashton 311. (photo credit: AP)

Israel dismissed as “preaching to the converted” a comment by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton’s spokeswoman on Tuesday that Europe expected Israel to guarantee equal rights for all its citizens, “whether they are Jewish or not.”

When asked about the new proposed amendment to change the wording of the oath of allegiance to “Jewish, democratic state” for naturalized citizens not eligible to immigrate under the Law of Return, Ashton’s spokeswoman Maja Kocijancik said that the EU supported “two democratic states living side by side in peace and security.

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“We also stress that the future state of Palestine and Israel will need to fully guarantee equality to all their citizens. Basically, in the case of Israel, this means whether they are Jewish or not,” she said.

“She is preaching to the converted,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor responded.

“It was never on anyone’s agenda to deny equality of rights to all citizens of Israel, as is guaranteed by the Declaration of Independence and by constitutional law,” he said. “Warning against a phantom danger does not contribute to advancing the debate with the serenity that it deserves.”

Another diplomatic official said there was “no question whatsoever that Israel’s non-Jewish citizens will continue to enjoy full civil and legal equality. This is fundamental for Israel and not a matter of debate – it is something we demand of ourselves.”

The official questioned whether Kocijancik, by not saying what exactly equality for Jews would mean in a future Palestinian state – where the PA recently reaffirmed that the death penalty would be applied to anyone convicted of selling land to Jews – was insinuating that the Palestinian state must be “ethnically pure.”

Kocijancik’s comments came just two days after Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman counseled the EU, during talks with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos, to first solve Europe’s problems before taking on the issues of the Middle East.

On Tuesday Lieberman met Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb, here along with Finland’s President Tarja Halonen, and said the adamant Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people raised suspicion in Israel. He said he wondered if before reaching a final agreement, the Palestinians would work through certain segments of the Israeli Arab population to question the country’s legitimacy and to create various Arab “autonomous areas” inside the country. Lieberman said it was important for Israel to stand firm on this issue.

The Foreign Minister said there was no dispute in Israel about the desire for peace, but that the argument was on how to reach it.

The Prime Minister’s Office had no comment on Lieberman’s remarks.


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