Saturday

7th Dec 2019

Israel seeks Kosovo-type EU split on Palestine

  • The old town in Jerusalem - the epicentre of the Arab-Israel conflict (Photo: Hadar)

The Israeli foreign ministry is targeting Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia in an attempt to split the EU on giving full UN recognition to Palestine in September.

The diplomatic game plan was put forward in a set of internal cables from senior foreign ministry officials, including director general Rafael Barak, the head of the Western Europe department, Naor Gilon, and the head of the Eurasia section, Pinhas Avivi, to embassies across the EU. The dispatches were sent out last week and seen by Israeli daily Haaretz.

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The cables divide EU countries into three groups: countries already opposed to the UN step, undecided countries and resolutely pro-Palestinian countries.

The second group - containing the six former Communist EU countries - is to be the top priority, with the Israeli PM and FM to make visits to their capitals in June.

The anti-UN-move countries are listed as Germany and Italy. The pro- countries are said to be Belgium, Ireland, Portugal and Sweden. France, the UK and Spain are not listed in the cables but the Israeli foreign ministry believes it will be very hard to convince them to go against the UN initiative.

One of the Gilon cables said the EU "will have difficulty reaching a consensus decision on recognising a Palestinian state, as happened with regard to Kosovo." It added: "Our goal is to create a momentum against recognition of a Palestinian state in September by creating a significant bloc of EU states that voice their opposition as early as possible."

The cables say the main message should be that the UN move delegitimises Israel and undermines the prospect of a negotiated solution.

A Barak dispatch said: "Your plan must include approaching the most senior politicians, mobilising the relevant force multipliers [such as local Jewish communities, non-governmental organisations], using the media, influencing local public opinion."

Gilon said ambassadors should try to urge pro-Palestnian countries to stay silent, to facilitate phone calls between EU countries' leaders and the Israeli prime minister, foreign minister and president, to encourage anti-recognition statements by opinion makers and to generate anti-recognition media articles and op-eds.

An Israeli diplomat told EUobserver he had seen some of the cables but could not vouch for the veracity of all the content.

The contact noted that while the leak could generate ill-will, the basic message is consistent with what Israel has been saying publicly all along. "We've been sending a very clear message that if you don't do this [establish a Palestinian state] through negotiations, it could create even more tension, even more instability in the region," the source said.

A senior EU diplomat gave an indication of the lack of trust between EU and Israeli structures.

"The idea of Israel is to create a homeland for all the Jewish people around the world and they are still encouraging people to come. It is not in their interest to have fixed borders because it is unclear how many people they will need to accommodate in future," the contact said.

The EU foreign relations service is currently trying to work out a joint position on the UN initiative and to convene a meeting of the Quartet - the EU, Russia, the UN and the US - at foreign-minister level to discuss a way forward.

Another senior EU official described UN recognition of Palestine as a "train crash". EU institutions are currently trying to persuade Israel to give the Palestinians a real incentive to set aside the plan and to return to the negotiating table.

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