Israel’s position in the world has never been stronger.Those are not the words of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who often talks about a “revolution” in Israel’s relations with the countries of the world, but rather of visiting Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu. “I believe honestly that Israel’s situation now is maybe one of the best in the history of the Jewish state,” he said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.He attributed this not only to the country’s policies, but also “to the fact that in the region we have a lot of conflicts and wars, and Israel is one of the countries that is keeping unity and a certain political line. You can accept it or not, but it is obvious that it is a state functioning and ensuring the security of its citizens.”
Asked whether this positive opinion of Israel was common among his European Union colleagues, Melescanu responded, “There are differences of course, nuances in this position, but everyone understands at the level of EU that our relations with Israel are very important relations for Europe – because it is a point of stability in this region.”Melescanu, who met with Netanyahu on Tuesday, arrived on Sunday and will leave on Wednesday following a brief visit to Ramallah. Romania is considered in Jerusalem as one of the more friendly countries toward Israel in the EU, and one that often speaks up for Israel in EU forums.For instance, Melescanu said he called at last month’s meeting of EU foreign ministers for the rescheduling of an EU-Israel Association meeting the Europeans canceled in February because of Israel’s settlement policies. Though no final decision was taken on the matter, he said that rescheduling the summit, which has not been held in five years, is “in the making” and currently being discussed “at the level of the bureaucracy” in Brussels.Although in the past Israel and the Palestinians have been a central focus of EU attention, in recent months there has been a noticeable decline in the statements and resolutions on the Mideast coming out of the EU and the monthly meetings of the EU foreign ministers.Asked whether this had to do more with the elections of US President Donald Trump or that Europe simply had more pressing issues to deal with now, Melescanu said that presently the EU is concentrating on “three big issues.”“The first one is the fate of the EU,” he said. “The second is Brexit, and the third is migration.”The Romanian diplomat said he does not envision any new EU Mideast initiative in the near future, “unless something unexpected happens.” He also said he does not foresee any “very in depth discussion on the issue” upcoming unless the US unveils a peace proposal.The last European initiative was the French initiative and peace conference that disappeared when both US president Barack Obama and French president François Hollande left office earlier this year.Iran was among the issues discussed in Melescanu’s meeting with Netanyahu, who is trying to convince world leaders of the need to either “fix or nix” the Iranian nuclear deal.“Our position is that we have to follow the mainstream of the European Union countries, and they are generally in favor of the idea of continuing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran,” Melescanu said.Melescanu pointed out that the International Atomic Energy Agency has issued eight reports saying that Iran has fulfilled all its obligations under the deal. While acknowledging that Iran’s development of ballistic missiles is a problem, Melescanu said it is not one of the issues that was covered by that deal.“So the prime minister did not convince you?” he was asked.“The prime minister had a different position,” he said. “You know it very well, he is very preoccupied, but so are we, I can assure you.”Regarding the strong showing of far-right wing parties in recent elections in Austria and Germany, Melescanu said there was no reason to be “very worried,” and attributed their success to the immigrant crisis facing Europe.He said that Romania has succeeded in keeping far-right wing parties out of its parliament – let alone the government – because of a 5% electoral threshold needed to win a seat.Not surprisingly, he declined to give Israel any advice on how to respond should the Freedom Party in Austria join the government there.“We will not recall our ambassador,” he said, adding that instead “we will use our ambassador in Austria, and the Austrian ambassador in Romania” to find solutions to problems if they emerge.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Romnian Minister of Foreign Affairs Teodor Meleşcanu, October 24, 2017. (GPO)