A senior American official involved in efforts to kick-start peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians has warned that should U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts fail, European Union members states will adopt additional measures against Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
- Kerry to Meet Abbas on Sixth Peacemaking Trip
- Bibi to EU: We Decide on Our Borders
- Settlers Getting Paid for Use of Palestinian Land
"The Europeans are giving us the time and allowing us to try and get the talks going," the official said. "But if we don’t succeed, they would want to go in other directions and take steps. The Israelis know it very well."
The U.S. administration doesn’t intend to abandon the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, but the official added that there is a sense of urgency with regard to breaking the deadlock.
"At the moment, the situation on the ground and in the international fora seems calm but it will not last in the long term," the official said. "The Palestinians might go back to the UN and the Israelis will react with more building and the result can be an escalation," he warned.
Secretary of State Kerry and Tony Blair, the Quartet envoy to the region, have asked EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to thwart initiatives from various European countries regarding the Middle East peace process. Kerry and Blair told Ashton and additional leading European foreign ministers, including Britain's William Hague and France's Laurent Fabius, to give Kerry's efforts time.
Ashton fell in line with Kerry and Blair, prompting a confrontation between her and other members of the EU Foreign Affairs Council during a meeting in June. During the heated debate, Ashton – to the dismay of some European foreign ministers -- clarified that she opposes criticizing Israel within an EU declaration about the peace process. Ashton claimed such a statement could lead the Palestinians to adopt a harsher stance and harm efforts to bring Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas back to the negotiating table.
The U.S. administration and the political echelon in Jerusalem surmise that European countries will blame Israel should Kerry's efforts fail – and that they will then move ahead with plans to label goods produced in Israeli settlements across the 28-member union. Other European proposals that have been raised include requiring visas for Israeli settlers wishing to travel to the EU.
Kerry is expected to arrive in the region Monday, for his sixth trip to the region since replacing Hillary Clinton. He is scheduled to meet with the Arab League secretary general and Arab foreign ministers in Jordan on Tuesday to update them on efforts to restart peace talks. Kerry is also expected to meet Abbas Tuesday, however he has no current plans to return to Israel. That may change if he feels an additional meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would advance the renewal of negotiations.