More than five years after the European Union promised to resume ministerial-level talks with Israel, and seven months after the body spoke of scheduling such an event, the European Union has yet to do so.
“We need to talk,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linus Linkevicius told The Jerusalem Post on Monday while visiting Israel.
Linkevicius was referring specifically to the absence of a meeting date for the EU-Israel Association Council – the main vehicle for joint ministerial dialogue – which has not met since 2012.
“We have to exchange positions, which is not the case so far, and [has not been] for a long time,” he said.
Linkevicius is one of several members of the 28-member body – including Estonian Foreign Minster Sven Mikser in March and Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto in May – who have told the Post they would like to see such meeting.
Israel has a status akin to a member-state within the EU, enjoying strong economic, educational, scientific and cultural ties. Top diplomats – including prime ministers and foreign ministers of EU member-states – are frequent visitors to Israel.
But in Brussels, on the diplomatic level, that strong relationship is often marred by the EU’s stance against Israeli actions over the pre-1967 lines, including EU opposition to settlement building and its support for illegal Palestinian construction in Area C of the West Bank.
Both Mikser and Szijjarto indicated that the EU position on Israeli settlement activity was to blame for the absence of a date for a council meeting.
In December 2016, EU member states supported the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, which condemned Israeli settlement activity.
In the aftermath of that vote, the EU promised to hold a council meeting, but no formal public link was made between the two events.
In the intervening months, however, Israel then marketed more than 3,400 settlement homes and advanced plans for 5,000 more.
Israeli and EU officials have repeatedly told the Post that a meeting will soon be set. On Tuesday, Mark Gallagher, who heads the political and press section of the EU’s embassy in Israel, said that date for the meeting would soon be set.
“The preparations have been ongoing in Brussels. In August, nothing happens. Preparations for the meeting will start against in September,” Gallagher said.
“Let’s keep what was planned,” Linkevicius said. “Let’s have a permanent regular dialogue, which is not happening. I would like to see this dialogue happen, with the understanding that there could be some disagreements. A lot of issues should be discussed – be it settlements, be it the Iranian issue, or whatever. I would do my best to facilitate that.”