Sunday, 26 Sep 2021 - 20 of Tishri, 5782

Towards the normalization of EU-Israel relations

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Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi was this week the host of his German counterpart, Heiko Maas, whose countries currently assumes the EU presidency.

Several EU foreign ministers have reportedly called for the renewal of the EU-Association Council which has not held a formal meeting since 2012, after Israel suspended its plan to extend its sovereignty over parts of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) in the framework of the recent US-brokered agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel to normalize their relations.

 

Will the visit of Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi in Berlin this week, where he met the 27 European Union Foreign Ministers for the first time since his nomination, lead to the reinstatement of the EU-Israel Association Council, a body that has not been convened since 2012, and to a normalization of EU-Israel relations ?

Ashkenazi was the host of his German counterpart, Heiko Maas, whose countries currently assumes the EU presidency. The Israeli minister met the EU Foreign Ministers on the sidelines of their informal meeting in the German capital.

Several EU foreign ministers have reportedly called for the renewal of the EU-Association Council which has not held a formal meeting since 2012, after Israel suspended its plan to extend its sovereignty over parts of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) in the framework of the recent US-brokered agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel to normalize their relations.

The EU-Association Council is the highest level ministerial body governing EU-Israel relations. It was originally scheduled to be convened every year but several countries have blocked it due to disagreements over the Israeli settlement policy despite intense bilateral cooperation in several sectors such as trade, technology, science, security, culture, education…

 “I think it’s very clear and it’s very tangible that the Israeli government’s policy moved from annexation to normalization,” Ashkenazi declared at a press conference in Berlin where he made his first official trip abroad.

Speaking with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at his side, Ashkenazi said: “I think that’s an opening” for Arab states to allow themselves to establish official ties with Israel.

“We left the door open for our neighbors. Now it’s up to their decision and their choice to join,” he added.

Israel signed a peace treaty with Egypt in 1979 and with Jordan in 1994.

In an agreement first announced by U.S. President Donald Trump on Aug. 13, Israel and the UAE declared their intention to work towards normalization. According to Israeli media reports, a signing ceremony for establishing full diplomatic relations is expected to take place in September or October.

A joint statement released at the time of the initial announcement said that “Israel will suspend declaring sovereignty” over Judea and Samaria.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed, however, that the issue of sovereignty is “not off the table,” and that he had agreed only to “temporarily suspend” the move.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has welcomed the agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates to normalize their relations.

“I welcome Israel-UAE normalisation; benefits both and is important for regional stability,” Borrell said.

He also referred to the pledge, under the normalization deal, for Israel to suspend its plan to extend sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria.

Borrell wrote: “Suspending annexation is positive step, plans should now be abandoned altogether. EU hopes for resumed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on a two-state solution based on international agreed parameters.’’

 

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