(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The European Union is planning a diplomatic “assault” against Israel by the end of the year once a number of major leadership elections on that continent are over, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said on Tuesday night.
“After this long election period — I understand from talks with friends in Europe and Brussels — we can expect a [diplomatic] assault by the EU against Israel.
“You don’t need any [special] information to know this. You just have to read the official statements and all the debates in the EU Parliament, that you can find on the foreign ministry websites,” he said while attending the Meir Dagan Conference at the Netanya Academic College.
Liberman listed some of the tensions that had already arisen with the EU, such as decision by Germany to delay by a year a special annual government-to-government meeting that occurs with Israel.
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There was also an attempt to transform the conclusions of December’s Paris peace summit into the official EU platform, Liberman said.
His remarks come as Israel and the EU prepare to upgrade their diplomatic ties, by holding a meeting of the Israel-EU Association Council, which has not met for the last five years.
A tentative date of February 28 was set for the meeting, but it was not finalized and no new date has been set.
Israel has a relationship with the EU that is almost akin to that of a member state when it comes to economics, education, culture, technology, scientific research and medicine.
But the two governments are sharply divided over the issue of West Bank settlements. In the absence of a peace process, the EU has increasingly turned its frustration over Israel settlement activity into action.
It published guidelines so that its member states could place consumer labels on settlement products indicating that they were not made in Israel.
It has also supported illegal Palestinian construction in Area C of the West Bank, which is under Israeli military and civil rule.
US President Donald Trump is seeking to renew the peace process, which broke down in 2014. His special envoy Jason Greenblatt visited Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories last week. An Israeli delegation is in Washington this week, headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief of staff Yoav Horowitz. The Israeli officials are talking with the Trump Administration about a common understanding with regard to settlement activity.
“It’s important to find a text that will satisfy both sides. If someone thinks we can do what we want here [with regard to settlement activity], they are mistaken,” Liberman said.
Liberman himself lives in the West Bank settlement of Nokdim and supports settlement activity.
However, he has warned against the drive by right-wing politicians to annex Area C of the West Bank, starting with Ma’aleh Adumim.
He told the audience at the Meir Dagan Conference that he has received phone calls from Washington anting to know about this legislation and he told them that there was zero chance it would pass the Knesset.
Liberman has urged constraint with regard to settlement activity until Israel and the US come to an agreement on the issue.
“We had eight-difficult years with the Obama Administration. Now have a pure Republican government, with a majority in the House and the Senate, and of course a friendly Republican president in the White House,” Liberman said.
He cautioned Israeli politicians to be careful about their statements and legislative initiatives because their words were heard as far away as the White House.
“There are things we can do and things we cannot do unilaterally,” he said.