Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to foreign ministers and other leaders of Eastern European and Balkan states on Sunday to persuade them to oppose the resolution being formulated by the EU Foreign Affairs Council, which would sharpen the distinction between Israel and the settlements, a senior official in Jerusalem said.
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The resolution is expected to be published Monday, at the conclusion of the council’s meeting in Brussels.
Netanyahu spoke to officials in Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Hungary and the Czech Republic, asking them to oppose the current version of the draft resolution, saying the text was unbalanced and biased against Israel.
A senior Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the prime minister focused his efforts on these countries not only because of their more favorable attitude toward Israel, but because their foreign ministers were expected to hold a separate meeting before the council convenes today. That meeting is not scheduled to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian issue, but in Jerusalem it was hoped that it could get the five to agree to oppose the resolution as a bloc.
According to the senior Israeli official, the EU Foreign Affairs Council is meant to adopt resolutions by consensus. The objection of several foreign ministers to the resolution and a demand for a debate on it by all 28 EU foreign ministers could delay the resolution by at least a month, until the next meeting of the council, and buy Israel time to soften the resolution’s language or move it off the council’s agenda altogether.
The senior Israeli official said Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold and the rest of the Foreign Service was working to scuttle the resolution. Israeli envoys throughout Europe had been instructed to hold meetings throughout the weekend with foreign affairs officials in the countries in which they serve.
In his remarks at the start of Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said he hoped that the “double standard” that is applied to Israel with regard to the actions of its security forces and its citizens “will not continue in the EU foreign ministers’ discussions next week. The double standard, distortion, attacks and bias against Israel will not help the EU in being a partner in discussions on the Middle East, but even more so, this is simply inappropriate and unjust and we will not accept it.”
The EU draft resolution stresses the distinction Europe makes between Israel and the settlements, stating: “The EU will continue to unequivocally and explicitly make the distinction between Israel and all territories occupied by Israel in 1967. EU agreements with the State of Israel are only applicable to the State of Israel [and not to the settlements — B.R.]. The EU and its member states are united in their commitment to ensure full implementation of existing EU legislation and agreements applicable to settlement products. The EU reaffirms its decision [to label settlement products – B.R.] and doesn’t consider it a boycott of Israel, which the EU opposes.”
The draft includes an indirect reference to the nongovernmental organization transparency bill being promoted by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, and even equates Israel’s conduct regarding NGOs with that of the Palestinian Authority. “The EU is concerned at attempts to stifle civil society on both sides,” it says.