European Union won’t take ‘no’ for an answer



European officials admit that even if Israeli-Palestinian peace talks stall, they will not blame either side


Brussels. Even as the entire world’s attention is turned towards Putin’s maneuvers in Ukraine and Crimea, European Union officials stress that nothing will make the 28-nation member organization stop striving to achieve a Middle East peace deal and a final status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) walks with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (L) before their meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (not pictured) in Geneva, on November 8, 2013 ( Jason Reed  (POOL/AFP) )

US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) walks with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (L) before their meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (not pictured) in Geneva, on November 8, 2013 – Photo: Jason Reed – POOL/AFP

Some 20 Israeli journalists were invited to EU headquarters in Brussels as part of the organization’s efforts to demonstrate the importance it places on the process, and in order to allay the mistrust that characterizes Israel’s relations with the EU.

A senior EU official told i24news that even US Secretary of State John Kerry’s urgent departure for Kiev did not prevent him from meeting beforehand with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “The desire of the international community, in general, and of us, the Europeans, to reach an agreement in the Middle East is great and nothing will damage our attempts to reach that goal,” he said.

“Europe is making great efforts to promote and support the American move and has no intention of dealing with the possibility that this move will fail,” the source added.


“The Europeans have not given up on the peace process”

Addressing the recent cancellation of the position of special European peace envoy, the source said that it was a purely administrative decision and that the envoy’s powers were transferred to Helga Schmid, the deputy of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. “This shows that the Europeans have not given up on the peace process, quite the contrary,” the source pointed out.

He emphasized that Europe has a lot to offer the Palestinians and Israel. “Europe is Israel and the Palestinians’ biggest trading partner. We also let both sides know that if a final agreement is signed, they will enjoy a ‘significant strategic partnership’ that will include financial and security elements. We offer the sides a hefty package and we recommend they take advantage of it.”

The official also said that even if the peace talks fail, Europe would never support boycotting Israel. “We object and will object to any attempt to isolate Israel in the Middle East,” he said, but was quick to differentiate between a boycott of Israel and a boycott of products produced beyond the Green Line – the latter which Europe will continue to support.

He reiterated that Europe does not differentiate between “settlements” and “settlement blocks,” where the majority of the settlers live. “Everything beyond the Green Line is not legal, as far as we’re concerned,” he said but did emphasize that there is a difference between the EU and banks and private companies boycotting Israel. “We boycott activity in the settlements, private companies boycott the whole of Israel. Whilst the act itself is legitimate, we object to it,” the official said.


“Peace is the best guarantee for everyone”

The official rejected insinuations of a one-sided European policy toward the Middle East and said that Europe not only condemns the settlements, but also the Palestinian incitement against Israel and the rockets launched from Gaza into Israeli territory.

When asked whether Europe would take the lead if Kerry’s peace efforts fail, the official responded by saying that “we will discuss it if, and when, we have to.” In addition, he said, “Europe is not secretly hoping to put the responsibility for failure on one party. We are not looking to blame anyone. If Kerry fails, we will focus on efforts to put the peace process back on track. Either way, we will not have a situation with only one international actor operating in the Middle East’s arena.”

He also rejected assessments that Europe means to cancel the hundreds of millions of dollars in financial aid it gives the Palestinians in case they are deemed responsible for the peace talks’ failure, and refused to address the question of why Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is unwilling to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. “Let’s give the sides and the US mediator the opportunity to move forward,” the official added.

Regarding guarantees that Europe might be willing to give Israel, the official said, “peace is the best guarantee for everyone.”


Adar Primor is the Editor in Chief for Internet & Multimedia at i24news.

View original i24news publication at: