Monday, May 4, 2009

EU-Israeli ties cool

For the past five years or so, the EU has played an active role in Mideast politics. Tensions between the EU and Israel have increased, however, particularly with the election of the new Israeli government.

The latest: EU Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner said that the planned upgrade in EU-Israeli relations would be put on hold until the "new Israeli government shows a clear commitment to pursue peace negotiations with the Palestinians." An Israeli foreign ministry official asked Europe "to lower the tone and conduct a discreet dialogue." He threatened that, "if these declarations continue, Europe will not be able to be part of the diplomatic process."

Ferrero-Waldner appears to have been speaking out of school. Czech prime minister Topolanek said that the EU Council has yet to take a position on this matter. This is not the first brou-haha of this type. An earlier one occurred last January when a Czech spokesman said Israel had the right to defend itself against Hamas rockets. The Czechs had just assumed the Presidency, but the EU had not made any such determination. However, there is no doubt that many in the EU (Czechs not included) would like to exert maximum pressure on Israel to accept a Palestinian state.

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