Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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December 3, 2012

Israel feels heat from allies over settlements

(Continued)

One EU official in Brussels said the matter will be high on the agenda of a meeting of European foreign ministers next Monday, and will also be discussed with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton during a planned visit this week.

The British and EU officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were discussing internal deliberations, and no firm policy had been set.

Silke Temple, a Mideast expert at the German think tank DGAP, said the European reaction was "indeed harsher" than in the past. She said Germany was likely to raise the issue of settlements with Netanyahu during a visit this week.

"There certainly will be a message at this week's consultations that it is not helpful. Constructing settlements just isn't constructive," she said.

Officials in Britain, France, Spain, Sweden and Denmark all said that no specific threats were made during Monday's meetings.

Avi Primor, a former Israeli ambassador to Germany, said he didn't think Israel had reached a "new era" in relations with Europe quite yet. But he said there is a "long-term process of public opinion gradually turning against Israel."

"Public opinion simply cannot understand the Israeli policy in occupied territories, the refusal to have a genuine peace process. Eventually, this lack of understanding will surely have an influence on governments," he said.

The diplomatic process is likely to remain on hold in the coming weeks as Israel prepares for new parliamentary elections. According to opinion polls, Netanyahu is expected to win re-election as head of a hardline coalition dominated by pro-settler politicians. Netanyahu's tough public stance in recent days may be motivated, in part at least, at creating a strong image for Israeli voters.

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