European ministers to renew high-level council with Israel after 10-year pause

Lapid said the decision was “proof of Israel’s diplomatic strength and this government’s ability to create new opportunities with the international community.”

By Sharon Wrobel, The Algemeiner

European foreign ministers on Monday voted in favor of reconvening a high-level dialogue between the European Union and Israel, after a hiatus of nearly ten years.

EU High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell announced the resumption of the EU-Israel Association Council, which has not held formal meetings since 2012. Formed in a 1995 agreement signed in Brussels to define EU-Israel relations, Israel ditched the Council after a 2013 EU decision distinguishing settlements from the rest of Israel for the purposes of agreements.

“We know that the situation on the ground in the Palestinian territories is deteriorating and I think that the ministers agreed that this association council would be a good occasion to engage with Israel about these issues,” Borrell stated at a press conference.

“The position of the European Union has not changed with respect to the Middle East peace process,” he continued, pointing to a 2016 council document backing the two-state solution.

Borrell added that a date for a meeting of the EU-Israel body will be agreed upon together with the Jewish state, after EU member states determine a “common European Union position.”

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Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said the decision was “proof of Israel’s diplomatic strength and this government’s ability to create new opportunities with the international community.”

The decision follows a letter signed by 158 members of the European Parliament urging Borrell, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and EU Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi to reconvene the work of the EU-Israel body. Israeli government efforts led by then Foreign Minister Lapid to re-establish the Council have also been ongoing in recent months.

“This would allow us to jointly address common challenges such as the energy crisis, looming food insecurity, and the continuous dangerous tensions in the Middle East, while at the same time applauding and encouraging the recent groundbreaking developments following the Abraham Accords, which enhance peace and stability in the region,” the July 11 letter by the European legislators read.

The Brussels-based AJC Transatlantic Institute welcomed the EU’s decision to relaunch the “long-overdue” forum.

“Europe and Israel, the only true democracy in the region, are bound to be close partners and allies,” said Daniel Schwammenthal, the organization’s director. “Shared Western values and common interests are the hallmarks of this partnership.”