EU envoy not quick to judge new gov't

Otte: Let's let Netanyahu's gov't articulate its policies; says strong int'l coalition necessary against Iran.

Marc Otte 248.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Marc Otte 248.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
EU special envoy Marc Otte, unfazed by the policy review currently under way in the new Netanyahu government and comments against the Annapolis process by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, recommended patience Monday, saying the new government had been in power less than a week. "Let's let the new government articulate its policies," Otte said at a press briefing in Jerusalem. At the same time, he said, the "clock was ticking," and that for a number of reasons - not the least being the Iranian nuclear issue - "we don't have the luxury of waiting" forever. He pointedly did not give a timeline. Otte said that building a strong coalition against Iran, a coalition that would include the Arab countries, would necessitate movement on the Israeli-Arab diplomatic track. "How do you get Syria involved in the coalition, which is essential, if you don't get a prospect of something changing in Israeli-Arab relations?" he asked. Despite some voices in Europe calling for the EU to sanction Israel already because of the new government, Otte said that the EU would deal fully and completely with the government, including with Lieberman. "We don't deal with individuals, but with countries," he said. "There is a legitimate government in Israel, and we will deal with the legitimate government in Israel." Regarding Lieberman's comments last week that Israel was no longer obligated by the Annapolis process, Otte said, "We will see what it means that Annapolis is dead. Does that mean that the attempts of negotiations to transform reality on the ground has failed? If so, we want to hear what they are going to do." At the same time, Otte said that from the EU perspective, the Annapolis process was a political commitment that Israel had entered into and that a UN Security Council resolution said was irreversible. "We see it as binding on all nations of the UN," he said. Otte took issue with those in Europe who said Israel should already be sanctioned because the new government had not yet committed itself to the road map or a two-state solution. "The trend in the relations between Israel and EU is not linked to moods or personalities," he said. "The long-term trend of rapprochement has deep and historic economic roots that don't disappear because we disagree with polices." This contrasted with reports that Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn had urged the EU at a meeting of foreign ministers last month to retract an invitation from Israel to participate in various EU meetings. "Further diplomatic preferential treatment cannot happen without conditions," Asselborn said, demanding that the Netanyahu government "prove through its actions that it will accept a Palestinian state." Otte also said the EU had no intention of easing the three conditions it had set for a dialogue with Hamas, and said that in the EU's eyes, the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip was "illegitimate." In a related development, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met Monday with Quartet envoy Tony Blair, whom AP quoted after the meeting as saying that he felt Netanyahu would endorse a two-state solution "if the right context can be created for peace." Benjamin Weinthal contributed to this report.