Israel: Europeans are ‘irrelevant’ on peace process

After EU UNSC members blast building beyond Green Line, back PA reading of Quartet statement, Foreign Ministry calls on Europeans to refrain from reinterpreting Quartet plan; Livni: Netanyahu "starting war with friends."

United Nations Security Council 311 (R) (photo credit: ERIC THAYER / Reuters)
United Nations Security Council 311 (R)
(photo credit: ERIC THAYER / Reuters)
Israel fired off an unusually undiplomatic riposte to four European countries on Wednesday, saying they risked losing credibility and relevance with their reflexive condemnations of construction beyond the Green Line and selective interpretation of Quartet statements.
Israel’s anger was triggered by a statement released on Tuesday by the four current EU members of the UN Security Council – France, Britain, Germany and Portugal – that forcefully condemned Israel’s recent announcements of building in the territories and east Jerusalem.
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“All settlement activity, including in east Jerusalem, must cease immediately,” the statement said, calling on Israel to reverse these steps, and saying announcements of continued construction “send a devastating message.”
The statement also slammed “the disturbing escalation of violence by settlers,” saying they were “deliberately provocative actions” designed to aggravate tensions.
The statement welcomed Israeli condemnations of the “price-tag” violence, and called on Israel to fulfill its commitments to bring the “perpetrators to justice and to put an end to impunity.”
The statement continued: “The package of measures announced by Prime Minister [Binyamin] Netanyahu in response to settler violence goes in the right direction. We look forward to seeing the results of these measures, and to seeing those behind the violence punished to the full extent of the law.”
However, the part of the statement that most infuriated Jerusalem was its backing of the Palestinian interpretation of the Quartet’s September 23 statement, which set out a framework for restarting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
“We call the parties to present as soon as possible to the Quartet comprehensive proposals on territory and security,” the council members said.
This contradicted a statement put out by representatives of the Quartet – which is made up of the US, EU, Russia and UN – just last week, which said these comprehensive proposals should be presented by the sides to each other in direct talks.
The Palestinians said earlier this month that while they have presented the Quartet with comprehensive proposals on security and territory, Israel has refused to do so, creating the impression that Jerusalem was obstructing the process.
Israel’s position is that these comprehensive proposals need to come out of negotiations between the sides, and not as a result of the Quartet mediating between them. The US has publicly backed this position.
The Foreign Ministry on Wednesday called on the council members to “adhere to the wording of the Quartet plan and refrain from giving it interpretations that contradict both the letter and the spirit of the original text. This misreading only adds obstacles on the path towards renewing peace negotiations.”
Furthermore, the Foreign Ministry took the countries to task for essentially predetermining the result of negotiations. For the negotiations to succeed, the ministry said, they must achieve four things:
• A two-state solution based on June 4, 1967, lines with equivalent land swaps agreed upon by the parties.
• Security arrangements that respect Palestinian sovereignty and demonstrate that the occupation is over, while also protecting Israeli security.
• A just, fair and accepted solution to the refugee question.
• Establishment of Jerusalem as the future capital of both states.
The Foreign Ministry said that “interfering with Israel’s domestic affairs, including on issues which are to be solved within the framework of direct talks, does not enhance the status they [the EU countries] wish to be granted.”
Moreover, the ministry suggested that the council members focus on putting an end to the bloodletting in Syria, helping democracy take root in Arab countries and stopping the danger to world security posed by the Iranian nuclear threat.
“If, instead of contributing to stability in the Middle East through these steps, they invest their efforts in inappropriate bickering with the one country where there is an independent justice system that knows how to handle lawbreakers of all kinds, they are bound to lose their credibility and make themselves irrelevant,” the ministry said.
It continued: “The European UNSC members have chosen to do what is easy and unnecessary, rather than muster their courage to do that which is difficult and necessary.”
One diplomatic official said that what Israel found most galling about the statement was that while it was very specific about its expectations of Israel – such as withdrawing to pre- 1967 lines and dividing Jerusalem – it was vague when it came to asking anything of the Palestinians.
“Why, when it comes to the refugees, do they say a ‘just and fair’ solution must be found, but when it comes to the territories they are very specific?” the official asked. “That is a fundamental lack of balance, and if they want to be taken seriously here, they have to be more fair and equitable.”
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni, meanwhile, slammed the government, saying Israel was “starting a war with its biggest friends in Europe” and harming the country’s security.
“Without legitimacy from the world, we will not be able to act against terrorism like we have in the past,” she said, adding that the world does not trust Netanyahu.