Israel bristles at EU measure as Kerry arrives in Amman to push peace talks

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Israel on Tuesday bristled at a new European Union directive curtailing EU financial agreements with Jewish settlements built outside Israel’s 1967 borders.

The move comes as US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Amman Tuesday, for meetings with Arab diplomats about the peace process, Syria and Egypt.

Some sources said they were informed Monday that there was likely to be a three-way meeting of Israeli, Palestinian and US officials in Jordan while Kerry is there and a formal announcement of a re-launching of talks. U.S. officials however, tried vigorously to downplay the prospect of a big break-through. No trips to Jerusalem or meetings with Israeli officials were planned for this visit, Kerry's sixth to the region since becoming Secretary of State, State Department officials said.

Kerry met with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh upon his arrival in Amman Tuesday before heading into what was billed as a private dinner with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Meantime, in Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke harshly against the new EU directive.

“I expect those who want peace in the region to deal with settlements after they solve the Syria crisis and the Iranian threat,” Netanyahu said in a statement Tuesday in response to the EU measure, Haaretz reported.

The EU directive, adopted June 30, and due to come into effect 1 January 2014, “will prohibit the issuing of grants, funding, prizes or scholarships unless a settlement exclusion clause is included,” the Guardian newspaper reported.

The directive, which is non-binding on the EU’s 28 member states, “is financially inconsequential,” said Daniel Levy, head of Middle East programs at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “It matters because liberal Israel, liberal Zionists, one of the main crutches of their argument for the two state solution, is the world won’t accept it otherwise.”

Israeli politicians such as Justice Minister Tzipi Livni have warned that Israel could face boycotts if it doesn’t curb settlements and the occupation of the West Bank, Levy said.

Israeli officials said the European move was unhelpful, however.

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Daniel Levy: What Israeli elections results mean on global front


Former Israeli peace process advisor Daniel Levy analyzes the global implications of Israel’s election results in a private memo for the European Council on Foreign Relations. The upshot: while the expected coalition is not likely to advance prospects for the two-state solution, the results indicate Israelis are concerned about Israel’s growing international isolation in large part because of the settlements:

“The key lesson for the West, and notably Europe, from the election is that concern over potential international isolation brought on by overzealous right-wing policies towards the Palestinians helped boost the centrist vote,” Levy, the director of ECFR’s Middle East programs, writes in a paper shared with the Back Channel. Yair Lapid, Israel’s second place finisher Yair Lapid:

repeatedly emphasised during the campaign that Israel risked being isolated internationally absent a more credible peace effort. Israel’s rightward drift, then, can be stemmed and even reversed if the West sends the right signals through smart pressure and imposing consequences, rather than evading its responsibility in responding to Israeli violations of international law. How the West approaches that responsibility will go some way to determining whether Lapid becomes the presentable face of a government that continues to deny Palestinian rights and defy International law or recognizes the need to challenge existing policies in this respect. The policy choices that the Palestinians take, of course, are not irrelevant to that equation.

Meantime, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, forced towards the center domestically, may actually try to double-down on Iran, Levy suggests: Continue reading