EU: Israeli accusations of ‘colonialism’ false and offensive
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EU: Israeli accusations of ‘colonialism’ false and offensive

Union snaps back after attack by Foreign Ministry official, says absence of peace agreement has global repercussions

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn (left), talks with EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini during an EU meeting of foreign ministers at the EU Council in Brussels, Belgium, December 14, 2015. (AP/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn (left), talks with EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini during an EU meeting of foreign ministers at the EU Council in Brussels, Belgium, December 14, 2015. (AP/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

The European Union on Wednesday dismissed strident criticism by an Israeli official — who, among other things, had accused the organization of “colonialism” — as “offensive, inaccurate and inappropriate.”

On Tuesday, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon told The Times of Israel that the EU’s policies vis-a-vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict feel like the “ghosts of a colonial European past coming back to life.”

The Israeli diplomat further accused European leaders of cynically exploiting the conflict to deflect criticism and to distract the public from their inability to solve the continent’s real pressing problems.

Nahshon’s comments “were offensive, inaccurate and inappropriate to the close and deep relations that Israel enjoys with the EU,” an official in the union’s delegation to Israel said the following day.

‘A comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has long been a priority for the EU’

“As a partner and as a neighbor, a comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has long been a priority for the European Union as it is for Israel,” the official told The Times of Israel, insisting on anonymity because he was not authorized to address the matter in the press.

“Contrary to Nahshon’s remarks, the EU is dealing with the challenges it is facing in the world, in the region and at home,” the official said. “The lack of progress in the Middle East peace process, which takes its toll on Israel and on the Palestinians, and continues to reverberate regionally and globally, is one of them.”

Nahshon’s comments to The Times of Israel came on the heels of Monday’s meeting of the EU’s 28 foreign ministers in Brussels, after which they unanimously endorsed the French plan to host an international peace process later this year.

Israel has repeatedly rejected the French initiative, arguing that it hardens Palestinian negotiating positions and thus distances peace.

“When I look at the sequence of the EU implementing labeling [for settlement products] and now the endorsement of an international conference, I feel that those are the ghosts of a colonial European past coming back to life,” Nahshon had fumed.

European leaders “have no credibility whatsoever if they deal with this conflict without dealing with the major issues that are far more important to Europe and the world, starting with the Syrian civil war, and challenges that Europe itself is facing, such as Brexit, immigration and Islamic terror,” he said.

Jerusalem wonders “whether Israel is not being employed, whether we are not being used in a cynical and deliberate way as a kind of fig leaf, a universal panacea, for a continent that is obviously unwilling or unable to deal with its real issues,” the diplomat thundered.

Emmanuel Nahshon (Twitter)
Emmanuel Nahshon (Twitter)

“Unfortunately, the conclusion is that this is probably the case,” he said. “Whenever you are in trouble, whenever you are a European leader unpopular at home, and whenever you face insurmountable challenges, then there’s nothing like organizing a conference on Israel to create a false agenda that will attract attention elsewhere.”

If the EU was genuinely concerned about the stalled peace process, it would focus all its efforts on getting the Palestinians to agree to enter direct bilateral talks with Israel, the diplomat said.

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