The European Union said Monday that it would maintain its role in the efforts to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s assertion the day before that Jerusalem would suspend all ties with the EU vis-a-vis the diplomatic process.
A spokesperson for the European External Action Service, the EU’s diplomatic service, said in a statement that “the EU would continue to work on Middle East Peace Process, in the Quartet, with its Arab partners, and with both parties, as peace in the Middle East was an issue of interest to the entire international community and also to all Europeans.”
The announcement came as European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, met Netanyahu on the sidelines of the COP21 climate conference in Paris.
Netanyahu’s suspension was a response to an EU directive to all its member states to begin labeling Israeli goods manufactured in the West Bank. East Jerusalem and Golan Heights as originating in settlements. Israeli officials have slammed the move as amounting to a boycott.
Despite Israel’s announcement that it was freezing dialogue on the peace process, the European body’s spokesperson noted that “EU-Israel relations are good, broad and deep, and this will continue.”
Referring to the EU guidelines at the heart of the spat, the spokesperson stressed the move was not a fresh initiative and came only as a followup to previously implemented rules.
“The interpretative notice on indication of origin, adopted by the European Commission on 11 November, was not new legislation but rather referred to the implementation of existing legislation — implementation that had been ongoing in some Member States for some time, well before the notice was adopted.”
“The European Commission provided this guidance at the request of all Member States. Hence, from the EU’s perspective, no great change had taken place and there was EU unity on this.”
Opposition MK Merav Michaeli of the Zionist Union criticized Netanyahu for undermining EU efforts that are of benefit to Israel.
“Netanyahu is threatening to push away the EU from the political process,” she told The Times of Israel. “If only there was a political process to suspend someone from. The biggest problem that Netanyahu creates is that there is no political process. The other thing of course, is I don’t know how he expects to keep being supported by states such as Germany or France or any other European country while he is ‘suspending’ them or ‘punishing’ them from something that they’ve been working so hard for the benefit of Israel, in the Israeli interest, in trying to achieve. Once again, unfortunately, what Netanyahu does completely contradicts the Israeli interest.”
Haaretz said that during her meeting with Netanyahu, Mogherini demanded an explanation of his announcement Sunday.
Netanyahu “ordered suspension of diplomatic contacts with the institutions of the European Union and its representatives on this issue,” the Foreign Ministry said at the time in a Hebrew-language statement. The suspension of ties on peace talks will remain in place “until the reassessment is completed,” it said.
The Foreign Ministry statement said contacts with individual European countries would continue, but not with the EU organizations on the subject.