EU Foreign Ministers Agree to Renew Annual Dialogue With Israel, Frozen Since 2012

Ministers decided in principle to renew the EU-Israel Association Council, which has not been held for a decade due to political tensions over European policy on Israeli settlements and pressure from pro-Palestinian groups

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and the European Union's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell during a meeting at the EU headquarters in Brussels, last year.
Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and the European Union's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell during a meeting at the EU headquarters in Brussels, last year.Credit: JOHN THYS - AFP
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

The foreign ministers of the European Union's member states agreed on Monday to renew the EU-Israel Association Council, an annual high-profile meeting between European foreign ministers and their Israeli counterpart in order to promote partnership on matters such as trade and foreign relations.

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The association agreements signed between Israel and the European Union in 1995 call for an annual meeting of Israeli and EU foreign ministers, which was last held in July 2012. The meetings stopped in 2013 due to political tensions over European policy concerning Israeli settlements and pressure from pro-Palestinian groups.

According to an EU statement, the European ministers "agreed to reconvene the meetings and start work to determine the EU position. The EU position on the Middle East Process has not changed since the 2016 Council conclusions supporting the two-state solution."

Josep Borrell, the EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, said at a press conference that "We know that the situation on the ground in the Palestinian territories is deteriorating, and I think – and the Ministers agreed – that this Association Council would be a good occasion to engage with Israel about these issues."

He added, "The date will be agreed mutually with Israel. But first, the European Union member states have to start working and determine a common European Union position, as with any Association Council meeting."

Monday's decision marks significant progress in mending relations between Israel and the European Union. Over the past year, Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who has also served as foreign minister in the current government, has put in efforts to mend the strained ties and ease the tensions with the EU that characterized the tenure of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Lapid sees the latest European decision as a success. Convening the dialogue before Israel's November 1 election may grease the wheels of Lapid’s campaign and, alongside Biden’s visit, reinforce his image as an accomplished statesman.

At the same time, Israeli officials believe that the EU will drive a hard line on the Palestinian front and reiterate its opposition to European investments beyond the Green Line – statements which could hurt Lapid among center-right voters.

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