Ministers Warn: Rein in EU or We'll Trip Up Kerry
Economics Minister Naftali Bennett and Deputy Foreign Minister Ze'ev Elkin have warned Prime Minister Binyamin Netanayhu that if he fails to bring about the cancellation of the new European Union sanctions on Israel, they may opt to sabotage U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts at jumpstarting negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, daily newpaper Maariv wrote Wednesday in its website.
Maariv quotes a message from the two, without specifying how or when it was delivered. "Until now,” the message says, “we were willing to tacitly agree to limited gestures toward the Palestinians, but if Europe is hitting us so hard and the renewal of talks does not reduce pressure from the international community – there is no reason to carry out gestures.”
Bennett heads the religious Zionist party Bayit Yehudi, considered to be the most solidly nationalist component in the governing Coalition, and Elkin is a member of the nationalist flank of the ruling Likud party. Since Prime Minister Netanyahu is the acting foreign minister while the former foreign minister, MK Avigdor Lieberman, awaits the results of a criminal trial against him, Elkin's position is close to that of de facto foreign minister.
Both men can stir up strong opposition to Kerry's initiatives. Kerry has been carrying out intensive shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East ever since he was sworn in as U.S. Secretary of State, in an effort to get Israel and the PA to resume negotiations, which have been stalled for years. He wants Israel to carry out gestures that include the release of jailed terrorist murderers, in order to lure the PA back to the table.
The European Union has issued orders forbidding its member states from cooperating, transferring funds, giving scholarships or research grants to bodies in Judea and Samaria, eastern Jerusalem , and even the Golan Heights.
Prime Minister Netanyahu said Tuesday in an initial reaction to the EU boycott: "We will not accept any external dictates regarding our borders," he said, adding that “the issue will be decided only in direct negotiations” between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.