EU's Solana: Don't drop two-state solution

Top Netanyahu adviser says solutions will be mulled based on practicality, nothing is written in stone.

solana speaks in Lebanon 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
solana speaks in Lebanon 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
The European Union's foreign policy chief Javier Solana warned on Monday that the bloc may reevaluate its ties with Israel. The warning came even as a top diplomatic adviser to Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu predicted Israel and the EU would continue to enjoy a good relationship. Speaking to reporters in Brussels on Monday, Solana said the EU may reconsider its links with Israel if the country's incoming government wasn't committed to establishing a Palestinian state. The bloc "will be ready to do business as usual, normally, with a government in Israel that will continue talking for a two-state solution," Solana told reporters in Brussels before a meeting of EU foreign ministers. "If that's not the case, the situation will be different," Solana said. On Sunday, in a conversation with reporters, he urged Netanyahu to craft a government which embraced the long-standing goal of a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinian territories. In an unusually harsh statement, Solana warned: "Let me say very clearly that the way the European Union will relate to an [Israeli] government that is not committed to a two-state solution will be very, very different." But in a conversation with The Jerusalem Post on Monday, Zalman Shoval, a former ambassador to the US and a top adviser to Netanyahu, said the new government had every intention of respecting its international obligations as long as they did not pose a security threat. "The European Union and this government are going to get along very well, given that most of the countries in Europe today are under leaderships who are basically friendly to Israel," said Shoval. "I do not foresee any major problems." Netanyahu, he said, intended to continue to actively pursue negotiations with the Palestinians. However, he added, "we are not saying a priori what the solution would be." In his conversation with the Post, he shied away from the phrase "two-state solution" and favored instead words like "arrangement" or "international obligations." He preferred to speak of the Palestinian "entity" rather than state. "But we are definitely going to continue political talks," Shoval said. A "two-state solution should not be regarded as an ideology or a mantra, but as a formula which has to be judged according to its practical ability," said Shoval. "We do hope that the European Union will regard any possible solution in a pragmatic way, without preconceived ideas," said Shoval. He added that he had every reason to believe that the new administration in the United States under President Barack Obama would do the same. No one, he said, wanted to revive the Annapolis process under which talks with the Palestinians were held during the last year. At the same time, "we are not saying that everything has to start from square one," said Shoval. He noted Netanyahu has had a history of respecting past diplomatic initiatives and did not abandon Oslo when he was prime minister from 1996 to 1999. But it was clear that the previous administration under former president George Bush did not make progress and that new ideas must be tried, said Shoval. Even Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have said their efforts had failed, continued Shoval. "The achievements were zero, so why would we go blindly down the same track without adding additional ideas," he said. Netanyahu, he said, would be looking to propose new ideas on how to move the peace process forward, with a focus on improving the Palestinian's economic situation. The solution to the Palestinian Israeli conflict, he said, could be based on the US-backed "road map" initiated by Bush in 2002, which speaks of a Palestinian state. But in considering that document, Shoval said Netanyahu's government would want to focus on elements that have yet to be tried. He added that the road map document he referenced was the one which was amended by Israel. Olmert's government erred, he said, by moving to the final stages of the road map process without insuring the initial ones were fulfilled. The issue of borders comes up only in the third stage, he added. In spite of Shoval's optimistic statements about the continuation of the diplomatic process with the Palestinians, Arab leaders this week said they were deeply concerned by Netanyahu's choice of Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman as Foreign Minister. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said the international community must not remain silent about the prospect of a far Right Israeli government with Lieberman as a top official. Lieberman has said Palestinian prisoners should be drowned in the Dead Sea, that Israeli-Arab lawmakers meeting with Palestinian militants should be executed and that the president of Egypt could "go to hell," said Malki. "The international community has to take its responsibility and also to address this issue very seriously," Malki told a news conference after the talks at the EU. According to AFP, Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said he feared that the new government would have a negative impact on the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. "We have a negative, possibly damaging factor, which is the emergence of an extreme Right government in Israel," he told members of the European Parliament in Brussels. "If they would implement what they've been talking about over the last few years, we would all of us face dire difficulties and face the most extreme of situations," he said. AP and Bloomberg contributed to this report.