Has EU given up hope in Israel’s new defense minister?

defense minister

The European Union decision June 20 to endorse the French Middle East Peace Initiative was influenced by the perception at the highest levels in Brussels that the Israeli government has taken a sharp turn toward an annexation policy with the entry of Avigdor Liberman into the Ministry of Defense. Indeed, the resolution of the EU council of foreign ministers to support the French initiative and to call for an international peace conference on a two-state solution before the end of the year is a challenge to the Benjamin Netanyahu government. The Israeli government is concerned that this move will drive the Barack Obama administration to embrace a two-state solution policy platform as a legacy for the next US president.

The Netanyahu-Liberman government, in the meantime, continues with “business as usual” in regard to funding West Bank settlements and decision-making by Liberman to deepen the occupation.

Liberman has entered the Defense Ministry with a pretentious voice of moderation. Nevertheless, it was only a matter of days before he expressed again his real extremist views, which he now can translate into actions. In a briefing to defense correspondents June 15, a very senior Defense Ministry source threatened Hamas that in the next war it will be wiped out and criticized Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for his extremist views on Israel and for his political weaknesses in Palestine. The source also related that Liberman ordered the cancellation of the VIP permit to enter Israel for the one man in the PLO charged by Abbas to maintain relations and communication with Israeli public opinion: Mohammed Madani, head of the Palestinian committee for interaction with Israel.

A senior PLO source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that Liberman’s policies are a “kiss of death” to whatever hope they had that Liberman and Netanyahu will engage in any two-state regional initiative: “The Israel of Netanyahu and Liberman prefers to focus on extremist Palestinian positions, such as the voices of the Hamas leadership or their terror, rather than addressing the moderation of Abbas. Liberman’s policies are not really directed against one PLO official, but rather against President Abbas.”

The official said that the PLO has clearly related to the United States, EU and Egypt that Liberman’s decisions and rhetoric were an assault on the hope for a two-state solution and on the French initiative.

Similarly, a senior EU official close to Federica Mogherini, high representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, expressed to Al-Monitor the dismay of Brussels with Liberman’s statements and decisions. He said on condition of anonymity, “We were asked by the Israeli prime minister’s office to give Defense Minister Liberman a chance to prove his constructive attitude toward a regional two-state peace process. But then Liberman started acting like an elephant in a china shop. We impressed upon the Netanyahu government our dismay. Liberman’s policy is weakening Abbas’ positions in favor of moderation and a negotiated two-state solution, vis-a-vis the Palestinian political circles.” The official claimed that the greater the Palestinian despair with a negotiated solution becomes, the higher the chances are for a wave of accelerated lethal terror involving also Fatah. He added that the EU finds it increasingly harder to prevent such violent deterioration.

EU foreign ministers have made their decision: adopting the French initiative to bolster Abbas’ position and to prevent a greater cycle of violence. The EU official told Al-Monitor, “Having Germany and the UK on board was essential in order to impress upon the United States the danger of leaving a policy vacuum in the second half of 2016 and the first half of 2017.” The EU source added that Mogherini is in close contact with Secretary of State John Kerry, as the US participation or even support for an international conference is far from obvious. Yet, it is clear to Brussels that the real obstacle to an operative US policy is the policy of settlement expansion of the Netanyahu-Liberman government.

The EU source concluded that based on these assessments at the EU foreign policy mechanism, Brussels has realized that it must fill the policy vacuum created by the US Middle East policy paralysis in an election year. The EU, he said, is committed to prevent the fall of Abbas, which would cause major harm in the region.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/06/israel-eu-is-calling-defense-minister-libermans-bluff-abbas.html#ixzz4DSvZOBlo

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