Livni Urges EU: Don't Halt EU-Israel Relations Upgrade

Plea comes as several European states push for halt in upgrade over Netanyahu's Mideast policy.

Opposition chairman Tzipi Livni conveyed a message to European Union leaders on Thursday, urging them not to freeze a planned upgrade of relations between Israel and the EU.

"I urge you prevent the freezing of EU-Israel relations upgrades," Livni wrote in the message addressed to EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, the EU's external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, and the EU's current council president, Czech foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg.

An internal Foreign Ministry document last week stated that following Israel's military offensive in the Gaza Strip, diplomatic bodies in a number of European countries have called for a freeze on the upgrade, citing the pressure of domestic public opinion. Four European states have already said that if Israel did not agree to a two-state solution, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has deemed unacceptable, they would oppose upgrading relations.

Livni wrote in the letter "you all know my commitment to peace between Israel and its neighbors and to the two-state solution, a commitment shared with the majority of the Israeli public," the opposition chief said.

"I believe that this kind of attitude, one which directly links an upgrade in relations with regional diplomatic progress, is overlooking the substantial gains that the upgrade could provide both to the people of Israel and the people of Europe, "Livni said."

"I beseech you to appeal to the EU countries and prevent any negative influence from affecting our strategic partnership," she added.

The issues expected to be most effected by a pause on EU-Israel relations upgrade are the culture, and science areas, as well as various expert exchanges, and scholarship distribution.

Robert Rydberg, deputy director of the Swedish foreign ministry, who visited Israel in July ahead of his country's assuming of the EU's council presidency, was informed by incoming Israeli deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon, that Israel was reconsidering its peace policy.

Rydberg replied that if that indeed was the case, EU-Israeli relation upgrade would also be halted.

He reminded Ayalon that according to the EU's verdict continued upgrading of its relations with Israel is conditional on the settling of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and of the "implementation of the two-state solution."

The foreign ministry said in response that "Jerusalem did not receive any official messages that warn against possible upgrade roadblocks, but only private utterances by diplomats, commending Israel's diplomatic progress."

In a press conference in Brussels on Thursday afternoon, Ferrero-Waldner, however, said that the EU expects Israel's new government to commit to advance the negotiations with Palestinians and to stop any moves that could possible hinder the implementation of the two-state solution, such as West-bank settlement expansion.