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Report: EU to rally against Israeli stance on peace

May 25, 2011 11:37 A.M. (Updated: May 26, 2011 10:31 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- "Netanyahu's rejection of peace based on the 1967 borders is self-important and arrogant," Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn told the German daily Der Spiegel in a Tuesday interview.

The official was responding to questions on the EU's declared support for US President Barack Obama's peace plan, which bases negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians on the 1967 borders, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's rejection of that stance.

Asselborn expressed surprise at Netanyahu's stance, given the relatively uncontroversial position Obama laid out "explicitly stat[ing] that a variation from the 1967 borders would be possible under a mutual land swap."

He said of the Israeli premier's response, "Netanyahu is suppressing the political reality and betting on a stalemate instead. For the peace process, that is deadly."

The foreign minister also spelled a way out of Netanyahu's insistence that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas must choose between unity with Hamas, the rival faction to the premier's Fatah party who agreed a reconciliation deal in April, and with Israel.

"The plan is that the transitional government should sit down with the Israelis as soon as possible to negotiate a two-state solution. In this way, Fayyad wants to prevent a vote at the United Nations General Assembly in September on the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state. If Abbas negotiates with Israel and Hamas is part of this transitional government, then Israel will implicitly recognize it," Asselborn said.

He continued, "We need to make an attempt to draw Hamas into a democratic process and bring it on to the path of freedom -- just as we succeeded in doing with Fatah during the 1990s. That would also include informal talks with Hamas," noting the EU would maintain its requirement that the party renounce the use of violence.

Asselborn also called Israel's siege on Gaza and the settlements project in the West Bank, a "form of violence."

In Gaza, he said, "1.7 million people live in an area one-seventh the size of Luxembourg. To shut its borders and to only allow certain goods into the country and hardly any out -- this is also a form of violence. In the West Bank, Israelis continue to build settlements on expropriated land. It is a constant provocation."

He said the EU should be "more courageous" in its support of Obama, should unify its position on the issue of a Palestinian state at the UN.

Asselborn told the German publication, "we in the EU should think about whether we can allow our relations with Israel to carry on as they have been.

"If the Israelis continue to dig their heels in and we just let them do what they want, it could lead to a new war. We Europeans need to send a signal -- not only with words but, if necessary, with actions as well. We need to consider political action if need be."
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