Brussels Plans to Weigh Relations with Israel | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 04.12.2008
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Brussels Plans to Weigh Relations with Israel

EU representatives criticized Israeli actions that jeopardize the Mideast peace process during foreign minister Tzipi Livni's visit in Brussels. Palestinian PM Fayyad warned against boosting EU-Israeli ties.

Israeli flag

The EU is taking a wait-and-see approach to Israel

The European Parliament held a plenary session to decide whether the EU should boost its ties with Israel on Wednesday, Dec. 3. However, they postponed a decision because of earlier Israeli actions on the West Bank.

On Tuesday, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told the parliament's foreign affairs committee in Brussels that the international community needs to permit Israel and the Palestinians to pursue peace at their own pace without setting a timetable.

"The eagerness of the international community can lead to a failure that no one can afford," said Livni.

"We are asking the world to give support and legitimacy to the Annapolis process," she continued, referring to the Mideast peace process that was set in motion last year by an international quartet consisting of the European Union, United States, Russia and the United Nations.

"Any idea of trying to bridge gaps when things are premature, can lead to violence," she warned.

EU parliament slams Israel

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, left, shakes hand with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas

The Israeli-Palestinian talks are going too slow for the EU

European parliamentarians have criticized Israeli moves to close access points on the Gaza strip on humanitarian grounds. Livni defended her government's policy by saying that the "illegitimate" Hamas government forced her to impose such "security measures".

"Do you think that I, as a human being, want (the Palestinian people) to suffer? …Put yourself in my position, what are the options?" she asked.

"I don't have a miracle solution for de-legitimizing a terrorist regime without any impact on the population," she said.

Jewish settlers endanger peace process

On Tuesday, scores of Jewish settlers had rioted in Hebron on the West Bank, clashing with Israeli troops who have the authority to evict them, according to news reports.

An Israeli soldier arrests a Palestinian youth during clashes

Jewish settlers and palestinians clashed in Hebron

Several EU parliamentarians warned that such actions on the part of Israeli settlers endangered the peace process and urged Ms Livni to do more to stop them.

"For us, the extension of settlers and colonists on the West Bank is not acceptable and does not set the tone for negotiations to take place," said Veronique De Keyser, a European parliamentarian from Belgium.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad argued that the continued presence of Jewish settlers in the occupied territories was reason for the EU not to upgrade its relation with Israel.

Palestinian warns against upgrading relations with Israel

"Israel has violated all its commitments, including on human rights issues. EU countries should wait before upgrading the level of Israeli representation with the EU," he said to reporters on Monday after meeting with EU diplomats on the West Bank.

Fayyad said the EU would send the wrong signal to Israeli voters ahead of February 10 legislative elections if it agrees to boost ties.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad

Fayyad urged the EU to see the bigger picture

"The message would be clear. By tightening links with Israel, the EU indicates that Israel gets what it wants without any considering its commitments towards the international community within the framework of the (Annapolis) peace process," he said.

The Palestinian leader had reportedly told EU diplomats that "the misery index in Gaza has never been higher" due largely to Israel actions to almost completely seal off the Palestinian territory over the last three weeks.

Fayyad had apparently told diplomats that the number of Jewish settlements had actually increased on the West Bank since the US-brokered Annapolis conference when Israel had agreed to stop the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

Checkpoints, home demolitions and evictions had also increased, he supposedly said.

"All of these facts on the ground have jeopardized the possibility of the two-state solution and the credibility of the negotiations process begun at Annapolis," EU diplomats had quoted Fayyad as saying.

Internal French document puts pressure on Israel

Meanwhile, the Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported seeing an internal document drafted by the French EU presidency ahead of a foreign ministers meeting next week, which called for increased pressure on Israel to re-open Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem.

"A key part of building the Palestinian state involves resolving the status of Jerusalem, as the future capital of two states," said the document. Therefore, "the EU will work actively towards the re-opening of the Palestinian institutions, including Orient House."

The Palestinian Authority's de facto foreign ministry had occupied Orient House, which was forcibly closed by Israeli forces on the grounds that terrorists had bombed a Jerusalem restaurant.

However the French document praised the Palestinian Authority for having greatly improved security in the West Bank, and concluded that Israel must transfer additional territory to Palestinian security forces.

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