PM Benjamin Netanyahu with new European Union Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
PARIS – A day after Israel announced that it was suspending the EU’s involvement in the Mideast peace process pending a ”reassessment” of ties following its decision to label products from the settlements, a spokeswoman for the EU said at a press conference in Brussels the European Union would continue its work on the matter in the Quartet, with its Arab partners and with both parties.
The spokeswoman said the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Paris, on the sidelines of the COP21 climate change summit.
However, a spokesman for the prime minister said the “meeting” amounted to Mogherini approaching Netanyahu in the hallway and shaking his hand.
Netanyahu issued the directive to suspend the cooperation with the EU as the Foreign Ministry conducts a reassessment of how much to involve the EU in the diplomatic process.
According to the EU spokeswoman, the EU-Israel relationship was good, broad and deep and that this would continue.
The spokeswoman said the labeling policy was not new legislation but rather referred to the implementation of existing legislation – implementation that had been ongoing in some member states for some time, well before the notice was adopted.
The spokeswoman stated that the EU would continue to work on Middle East peace process “as peace in the Middle East was an issue of interest to the entire international community, as well as all Europeans.”
An Israeli diplomatic source said that in the coming days the Foreign Ministry would hold discussions regarding the concrete implications of the move. The goal, the source said, was to send an unmistakable message to the Europeans of Israel’s displeasure at the settlement-labeling move, which he said discriminates against Israel relative to other conflict areas in the world and “has the smell of a boycott.”
“It is unthinkable that Israel will hold discussions with EU institutions on how to move the diplomatic process forward at the same time as it initiates steps against Israel,” he said.
Centrist and Leftist politicians in Israel blasted Netanyahu’s decision in the Knesset on Monday.
Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni said it was ridiculous for Israel to boycott the European Union and that Netanyahu’s move would only encourage more condemnation of Israel around the world. She said the decision was intended to win votes in Israel at the expense of the state’s image internationally.
“He wanted to say to his voters ‘we showed them,’” Livni said. “Netanyahu merely added another brick in the wall of Israel’s isolation.”
Meretz head Zehava Gal-On said that “instead of playing infantile games of “brogez” [anger] with the EU, the prime minister should have taken advantage of the climate change summit to advance the peace process, which is the only real solution to the wave of terror.”
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid complained about the prime minister’s “strategy of losers” and compared Netanyahu’s behavior to an IDF commander telling his troops not to enter an area in which shooting is taking place.
“We are abandoning the battlefield to the Palestinians and the disgusting BDS movement when we should be there fighting day in and day out,” Lapid said. “If he chose to be foreign minister, he needs to make time to do his job.
Lapid said he has met recently with the foreign ministers of Italy, France, Norway and Hungary because Netanyahu was unwilling, and also accused Netanyahu of releasing very different statements in English and Hebrew on the EU decision Sunday.
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