Angry Response After EU Exclusively Criticises Israel
Israel has responded angrily to a statement by the EU's leading foreign diplomat in which she exclusively blamed Israel for the collapse of peace talks with the Palestinian Authority.
On Firday, EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton called on Israel to halt construction projects in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria in order to revive the negotiations.
"The EU calls on the Israeli authorities to reverse these decisions," Ashton said.
Such events are "not conducive to the climate of trust and cooperation needed for the current peace negotiations to succeed," she added.
Ashton made no reference to Palestinian Authority moves which caused negotiations to collapse, including its repeated refusal to recognize Israel as the Jewish people's nation-state, and the decision to unilaterally apply for membership in 15 international agencies.
However, she did condemn "the recent killing of an Israeli man in the West Bank" and call "for an immediate end to all acts of violence" - a reference to the murder of Baruch Mizrahi near Hevron by Arab terrorists, in an attack which also injured his pregnant wife and a nine-year-old child.
An Israeli official, who requested anonymity, slammed Ashton's comment, and pinned the blame for the faltering peace talks on the Palestinians.
"It is not surprising that once more Mrs Ashton is ignoring Palestinian responsibility in the crisis facing the discussions," the official said. "Although the Palestinians clearly and crudely violated the agreements by unilaterally addressing the United Nations, Mrs Ashton did not see the need to react to that."
Under an agreement brokered by the United States for the resumption of the talks last July, Israel committed to releasing 104 prisoners held since before the 1993 Oslo autonomy accords in four batches.
However, the prisoner release was contingent on tangible progress in talks, and when the PA made it clear it would walk away from the negotiations at the end of April, Israel indefinitely postponed the release of the last group of 26, triggering the ire of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who responded by turning to international agencies in breach of the terms of talks.
"As always when the Palestinians must make decisions, they refuse to do so in the knowledge that the international community will ignore it, and this is what happened," the Israeli official said.
The crisis emerged just a month before the deadline of the talks on April 29 and as Washington was striving to extend the negotiations beyond that date.