Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Tuesday deemed his talks with the European Union a success, but the EUs closing statement included quite a few reprimands and criticisms of Israel.
The EU particularly castigated Israel over initiatives Lieberman is personally championing, such as a proposal to have leftist groups investigated by a Knesset committee.
According to the statement, issued on Tuesday in Brussels after the meetings with Lieberman, the EU said it recalls the importance of a vibrant NGO sector and civil society in general and the vital role they play in open and democratic societies.
The statement also called on Israel to promote its active NGO sector and to refrain from actions which may significantly curtail its freedoms. In this context, the EU is concerned about the proposed parliamentary inquiry committee to investigate NGO funding and the draft law on recipients of financial support from foreign political entities, the statement said.
The EU statement touched on another issue Lieberman has focused on: Israels attitude toward its Arab citizens.
The EU encourages Israel to increase efforts to address the economic and social situation of the Arab minority, to enhance their integration in Israeli society and protect their rights, it read.
A statement released by Liebermans bureau made no mention of the criticism. The statement noted that Lieberman was holding the talks in Brussels as part of the annual meeting of the EU-Israel Association, and said that during the meetings, Lieberman and EU officials had surveyed relations between Israel and the EU and ways to continue cooperation between the parties. The Europeans stressed with great satisfaction the decision of the Council of Foreign Ministers to begin technical talks with Israel with regard to possibilities of future cooperation.
The optimistic tone of the statement runs in sharp contrast to Israels declining position in the EUs eyes. The EU has refused to continue upgrading relations as long as peace talks with the Palestinians continue to stall.
On the issue of the peace process, the EU statement said it underlines the importance of concluding negotiations between the parties by September 2011 as set out by the Quartet in its statement of February 5, 2011, and calls for the urgent resumption of negotiations on all final status issues, respecting previous agreements and understandings.
The statement also made reference to the end of the settlement freeze, noting with regret that Israel has not extended the moratorium as requested by the EU, the U.S. and the Quartet, and reiterates its views that settlements, including in East Jerusalem, are illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace.
Lieberman only managed to extract the EUs noncommittal statement that it would pursue technical talks toward future cooperation after weeks of diplomatic efforts, with the support of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Bulgaria.