Israel and EU End 3-month Crisis, Agree to Resume Talks on Palestinian Issue

In phone conversation, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini invites Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to EU headquarters in Brussels.

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EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, May 2015.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, May 2015.Credit: Amit Shabi

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini ended the crisis between Israel and the EU on Friday, with the two sides agreeing to resume talks on the Palestinian issue. These were suspended by Israel three months ago in response to the EU’s decision to mark produce from settlements in European markets.

During their phone conversation Friday afternoon, Mogherini invited Netanyahu to visit EU headquarters in Brussels.

Over the past two weeks, there has been quiet contact between Foreign Ministry officials in Jerusalem – headed by director general Dore Gold – and foreign policy officials at the EU, headed by deputy foreign policy chief Helga Schmidt. The talks were aimed at formulating understandings that would lead to an end to the crisis, which started after the EU decision to mark produce from the settlements was made official last November. Since then, Israel suspended all contact with the European Union regarding the Palestinian question.

A senior official in Jerusalem noted it was understood in Israel that the rupture with the European Union ultimately harms Israeli interests, but that they wished to receive some sort of “compensation” from the EU in the form of a commitment by Mogherini to freeze further initiatives against Israel. Given that, Israel had to eventually make do with general nonbinding declarations that contained no diplomatic achievements for Israel.

A few days ago, the two sides started preparing an agreed formula for a declaration by Netanyahu and Mogherini that would be issued after their phone conversation. Afterward Friday’s conversation, the Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that Mogherini had “expressed solidarity with the people of Israel in light of recent terror attacks, repeating the European Union’s commitment to Israel’s security.”

Netanyahu told Mogherini of the need to combat Palestinian incitement, which he said encourages terror against Israeli civilians.

“The two sides discussed the important relations between Israel and the European Union following the EU announcement regarding labeling produce from beyond the 1967 borders,” the Foreign Ministry said. “The prime minister welcomed Mogherini’s position in which the EU strongly opposes a boycott and efforts by the BDS movement against Israel, and by which the guidelines for labeling produce do not predetermine results of future negotiations regarding borders – an issue that should be resolved by the two parties [Israel and the Palestinians].”

During the conversation, Netanyahu emphasized to Mogherini that Israel objects to illegal construction in Area C of the West Bank (which is under full Israeli control), in which the EU is involved.

“The prime minister and Mogherini agreed that bilateral relations between Israel and the European Union should continue in an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect, which will assist the diplomatic process. The two sides agreed to convene the EU-Israel Association Council in the near future,” the Foreign Ministry added.