European Union foreign ministers unanimously voted in Brussels on Monday to revive a high-level dialogue with Israel.
The EU-Israel Association Council is a body established by the European states in 1995, meant to ensure dialogue and strengthen relations between the countries.
However, the council has not met since 2012. Israel canceled its 2013 meeting in protest over an EU decision to differentiate between settlements and the rest of Israel in all agreements. In addition, several EU states did not agree to hold a council meeting each of the following years, beginning after Operation Protective Edge in 2014, in protest over policies toward the Palestinians. Some states called for more progress on peace with the Palestinians before moving toward closer EU-Israel ties.
“The position of the EU has not changed with respect to the Middle East peace process, and we will continue... supporting the two-state solution,” said EU High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell, at the end of the Foreign Affairs Council meeting.
“The position of the EU has not changed with respect to the Middle East peace process, and we will continue... supporting the two-state solution.”EU High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell
“We know the situation on the ground in the Palestinian territories is deteriorating, and I think ministers agree this association council is a good occasion to engage with Israel about these issues.” Borrell said that it would be an appropriate time to think about the EU’s position in the peace process.
A date has not yet been set for the EU-Israel Association Council meeting, but it will take place after member states “determine a common EU position,” Borrell said. He added that they will not necessarily wait until after the election on November 1, or for a new government to be formed after that.
“Who knows when the next Israeli government will be formed? Maybe it will be six months or a year,” Borrell said.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid said that “the fact that the 27 foreign ministers of the European Union voted unanimously to strengthen economic and diplomatic ties with Israel roofed Israel’s diplomatic power and the government’s ability to create new opportunities with the international community.”
Borrell and then-foreign minister Gabi Ashkenazi began talks to revive the council in 2020, after then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu suspended plans to apply Israeli sovereignty to settlements in Judea and Samaria in favor of the Abraham Accords.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid set reconvening the association council as one of his top goals when he became foreign minister last year.