Israel pushes EU to upgrade ties in light of renewed peace talks
In April 2009, the EU suspended the upgrade process after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a reassessment of the peace process and Israeli-PA talks were subsequently suspended.
By Barak Ravid
The Foreign Ministry has asked senior European Union officials to renew the process of upgrading Israel's relations with the organization, in view of the renewal earlier this month of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. In April 2009, the EU suspended the upgrade process after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a reassessment of the peace process and Israeli-PA talks were subsequently suspended.
EU officials say the original decision to upgrade relations with Israel was linked to the peace process that began after the November 2007 Annapolis summit, and that the suspension of the process followed the stall in the peace talks. Many European foreign ministers have said in the past year that progress in the negotiations would offer an opportunity to restart talks on upgrading Israel's EU status as well.
After Netanyahu met with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Washington earlier this month, the Foreign Ministry resolved to appeal to the EU's 27 member states and EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton with a request to renew the upgrade process. A highly placed source in the ministry said that last week directives were sent to Israel's EU representation in Brussels and to Israeli embassies in EU member states with instructions on taking diplomatic measures on the matter. The directive, titled "Leveraging the start of talks in Washington into renewing the European agenda," instructed Israeli ambassadors to appeal to the highest levels of government in the countries where they serve and in the EU with the message that the renewal of peace talks has created conditions appropriate to "thawing out" the upgrade of Israel's relations with the organization. Recent upgrades by several EU member states in their diplomatic relations with the PA should be mentioned as another reason for restarting Israel's upgrade, the Israeli diplomats were told.
The EU decided unanimously in December 2008 to upgrade relations with Israel followed a long and difficult campaign by Israel. The decision came despite vigorous efforts by the PA and by Egypt to thwart the move. The move includes several areas of cooperation between Israel and the EU and gives Israel senior trading partner status. Once the upgrade is completed, it could bring in billions of dollars to the Israeli economy.