The European Union's Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini will travel to Israel and the Palestinian Authority on Wednesday to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. This will be the first visit by a senior EU official since the new Israeli government was sworn in on Thursday.
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This will be the second visit to Jerusalem for Mogherini, who placed the Israeli-Palestinian peace process high on her agenda. She even appointed Italian diplomat Fernando Gentilini as the new EU Special Representative for the Middle East peace process. Gentilini is set to accompany Mogherini in her meetings in Jerusalem and Ramallah.
Mogherini hoped she could have a more central role in the efforts to renew the peace talks between the sides, but the results of the Israeli elections and the composition of the new government has made Mogherini's plans difficult to implement. Mogherini's visit is also set against the background of rising pressure by many EU member states to promote sanctions against Israel, such as labeling settlement products, due to the stalemate in the peace process. Some European countries, like France, are also pushing UN Security Council resolutions on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
Senior EU officials and Israeli diplomats noted that despite the composition of the new Israeli government, Mogherini intends to examine where Netanyahu and Abbas stand with regards to resuming the peace process, and what may be achieved even without talks.
Mogherini is expected to ask Netanyahu for clarifications regarding his level of commitment to the two-state solution, following his comments against the establishment of a Palestinian state in his election campaign.
Another issue on Mogherini's agenda during her visit is the situation in the Gaza Strip and concerns of another violent conflagration in the coming months, as the reconstruction of the Strip has stalled. European diplomats noted that they are very concerned by the fact that Abbas is making no efforts to reach understandings with Hamas that will allow the reconstruction to be accelerated.