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Report: Israel expects more EU pressure in 2013

Dec. 26, 2012 9:56 A.M. (Updated: Dec. 28, 2012 9:24 P.M.)
TEL AVIV, Israel (Ma'an) -- Israel fears the European Union will step up efforts to pressure it and the Palestinians into an agreement in 2013, according to a government document quoted Wednesday in Israeli media.

Israel's Haaretz newspaper said the report states that the Europeans may try to promote the establishment of an actual Palestinian state independent of negotiations with Israel.

The document was compiled following last month's UN vote to recognize Palestine as a non-member observer state and European protests over settlement construction, the newspaper reported.

"A growing understanding can be seen in the EU of the ineffectiveness of the current process," the report is quoted as saying. "This understanding is accompanied by repeated calls to find new channels of progress ... The emphasis from their perspective is not on actual direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, but rather on the essential need to move ahead quickly to a permanent-status solution, because the EU recognizes that without a solution, things could go downhill on the ground."

Haaretz also quoted a senior European diplomat as confirming that "The EU thinks there needs to be a peace process in a new format to lead to progress in 2013. We think international parameters should be formulated for the end of the conflict. We will no longer agree that the two sides should sit alone in a room and we should say yes to everything they do."

Stung by the de facto recognition of Palestinian sovereignty by the UN, Israel announced it would expand settlements in the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem.

On Friday the EU and Russia, which together with the United States and the United Nations make up the Quartet of Middle East mediators, said the settlements were illegal under international law and were an obstacle to peace.

"The EU and the Russian Federation will not recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties," they said.

It was time to take "bold and concrete steps towards peace between Palestinians and Israelis", they said, calling for "direct and substantial negotiations without preconditions".

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