Lieberman to EU: Conditioning Bilateral Ties on Mideast Process Won't Advance Peace

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Foreign Minister Avigdor LiebermanCredit: AP

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Sunday that European Union's decision to link its bilateral relations with Israel to the developments in Israeli-Palestinian was wrong and unbeneficial to the peace process.

Lieberman was responding to Haaretz's report revealing that the European Union had secretly drafted new sanctions against Israel ahead of possible diplomatic steps it might take, including making the establishment of a Palestinian state impossible.

"There is no place for linking the bilateral relations between Israel and the European union to the relations between Israel and the Palestinians," Lieberman said at a press conference Sunday alongside visiting German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier.

"Any attempt to levy such conditions is erroneous and does not contribute to stability, normalization or the strengthening of ties between Israel and the Palestinians," Lieberman added.

The foreign minister brushed off European criticism of Israel's construction in East Jerusalem, and stressed that Israel would never accept definition of its building in Jewish neighborhoods there as "settlement activity."

"That is the widest consensus in Israel, agreed upon by Jews from the left, the right and the center, and I hope that the European Union will take that into account," Lieberman said. "Nobody would accept that construction in neighborhoods like Ramot, Gilo or East Talpiyot is 'settlement building.' This does injustice to reality, and we will not accept this."

"We will not accept any restrictions on building in Jewish communities in Jerusalem – there will be no compromise on the matter. Those who think the government of Israel will surrender and restrict its construction in Jerusalem are wrong. We will guard our independence and our sovereignty."

Haaretz reported Sunday, quoting European diplomatic sources and senior Israeli officials, that the EU had distributed a confidential document to its 28 member states that contains the draft of a proposal for sanctions to be imposed on Israel if it takes action in the West Bank that could make the two-state solution impossible.

The representatives, who received the document from the EU’s European External Action Service (EEAS), were asked to keep its distribution limited and not to show it to Israel yet. Israeli diplomats in a number of European capitals reported the existence of the document to the Foreign Ministry, adding a few details about its content. However, they were unable to obtain the full document.

Three European diplomats and two senior Israeli officials, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the document deals mainly with “sticks and carrots” for Israel with regard to maintaining the two-state solution, although they said the document contained mainly sticks.

“The peace process is in deep freeze, but the situation on the ground is not. There is big frustration in Europe and zero tolerance for settlement activity. This paper is part of the internal brainstorming being done in Brussels these days, about what can be done to keep the two-state solution alive,” a European diplomat familiar with the details of the discussion around the document said.

According to current EU policy, any upgrading or development of ties to Israel is conditioned on actions it might carry out to advance the peace process and the two-state solution. The principle in the new document is that the EU will respond with sanctions and restrict its ties with Israel in response to actions that could make the two-state solution impossible.

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