Thursday, December 17, 2009

Israel: EU Official's 'Occupation' Remark Casts Pall on Ties

Curt Here...

The recent rhetoric between the new EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and the nation of Israel are interesting to say the least. In response to Lady Ashton's harsh remarks earlier this week that in the EU's view, "East Jerusalem is occupied territory, together with the West Bank," Israeli government officials today responded by saying that they were surprised that she would display such criticism without even visiting Israel. They went on to say that they were particularly angry that she didn't welcome the recent Israeli declaration to freeze settlement construction for the next 10 months. Instead Ashton described the freeze as a "fist step."

Her point came through loud and clear, a 10 month temporary construction freeze will not be sufficient. This mentality within the EU is starting to become the dominate opinion as soon after Ashton's speech a number of EU MEPs from the Liberal side of the house called for punitive measures against Israel, including the suspension of the EU's Association Agreement. The Association Agreement they are referring to is the one that Israel originally agreed to under the EURO-MED Barcelona Process and then later this agreement along with Israels ENP Action plan became known as the European Neighborhood Policy.

Could this really be happening? Is the EU really threatening to break their seven year ENP agreement with Israel, if Israel does not give up Judea, Samaria and the Temple Mount and hand over these areas to the Palestinians so they can establish a Palestinian State? At the very least it is heading in this direction.

On a side note, earlier this week Javier Solana accepted a job as a professior for the ESADE Business School. He will preside over the new ESADE Centre for Global Economy and Geopolitics. The topic of Solana is still a large question to me, especially since we seem to still be advancing down the ENP path. My guess is that the whole story still has not been told.

Stay Tuned.



Israel: EU official's 'occupation' remark casts pall on ties

Government officials in Jerusalem harshly criticized the new European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, for her scathing remarks about the "Israeli occupation" in her maiden speech.

Ashton on Tuesday leveled scathing criticism at Israeli policy in her first speech as the European Union's first high representative for foreign affairs and security policy.

The government officials in Jerusalem said they were surprised, dissatisfied and concerned that such a senior figure had expressed criticism before visiting Israel and learning the facts.

They said the remarks cast a pall over relations with the European Union, and that they were particularly angry that she had not welcomed the settlement construction freeze, as had her European colleagues.

The British stateswoman, who has also served as the Commissioner for Trade in the European Commission, said that in the EU's view, "East Jerusalem is occupied territory, together with the West Bank."

Ashton demanded that Israel immediately lift its blockade on the Gaza Strip, and reiterated that the union opposes the existence of the West Bank separation fence, as it opposes evictions of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem.

The stateswoman, whose full title is Baroness Ashton of Upholland, also only defined Israel's partial freeze of West Bank settlement construction as a "first step," as opposed to the warmer description of the move by EU foreign ministers, who last week took "positive note" of it.

In her address to MEPs in Strasbourg, Ashton, who was only recently appointed to the new position, said she had spoken with Israelis, Palestinians and the U.S. Secretary of State about the role the Quartet of international mediators, and that of its special envoy to the region, Tony Blair.

Ashton said she had told Blair personally that, "The Quartet [a special group set up by the U.S., EU, UN and Russia] must demonstrate that it is worth the money, that it is capable of being reinvigorated."

Following her comments, a number of MEPs from the Liberal side of the house called for punitive measures against Israel, including the suspension of the EU's Association Agreement. Irish centre-left member Proinsias De Rossa, who visited the West Bank last week, called Israel's treatment of Palestinians a form of "apartheid."

This time it was neither the "infamous" Swedish president who pulled the EU toward an anti-Israel resolution, nor a "daydreaming judge" in Britain who issued an arrest warrant against an Israeli foreign minister. Criticism of Israel has become the language of choice in European discourse.

When the Israeli government offers new benefits to settlers, and peace talks with the Palestinians are deadlocked, even the superpower's long arm is helpless. Even former U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, a devout Jew who serves as an external advisor to U.S. President Barack Obama, does not hide his chagrin with the settlements policy.

Indyk has recently told Haaretz in an interview that statements by figures like Minister without Portfolio Benny Begin, according to which settlement construction will continue despite the moratorium, are damaging to Israel's interests. He said these comments, as well as the decision to pump funds into isolated settlements, strengthen the impression that the declaration of the freeze is not worth the paper it is written on. He warned that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will pay a political price for the move, without gaining the benefits which it was intended to grant Israel in the international arena.

1 comment:

the70thweek said...

'EU, like Rome before, will fail to sever Israel's link to Jerusalem'

Deputy foreign minister rebuffs European Union foreign affairs chief's statement calling capital 'occupied territory'; says EU, like Rome before, will fail to sever Israel's link to Jerusalem

Jerusalem continues to be at heart of dispute between Israel, European Union: Foreign diplomats will not be able to sever Israel's special connection with its capital, Jerusalem, Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon said Saturday, in response to earlier remarks by a top European official.

Catherine Ashton, the EU's foreign affairs chief, referred to the Israeli capital as "occupied territory" at a speech given earlier this week, prompting Ayalon to state that "just as the Romans failed to severe Israel's ties with Jerusalem, so will the EU's and UN's diplomats."

Saturday's comment by Ayalon also addressed the prospects of the Swedish initiative – declaring east Jerusalem the capital of the future Palestinian state – coming to pass despite the motion's rejection by Israel.

"If any unilateral decisions are made it would be crossing a red line and Israel will no longer be obligated by any post–Oslo deals," he said. Israel will also see such a move "as legitimizing unilateral moves on its part."

As for Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, Ayalon said that "Abbas knows he can't get anything else out of the current government and apparently, he's not really interested in peace.

"He is trying to blame Israel for his refusal to progress towards peace," Ayalon said.

I am starting to wonder who is going to break the ENP agreement first, the EU or Israel?