Tag Archives: Israel

Ursula von der Leyen visits Israel

Brussels 14.06.2022 The European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen visited Israel on her Middle East trip including Palestine, Joradan and Egypt.

“Today, I would like to focus briefly on three of these challenges” von der Leyen said, while addressing the audience at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. “The first is the challenge stemming from autocracies, the second is climate change, and the third is democratic backsliding. The most direct of these challenges comes from authoritarian regimes outside our borders. And indeed, what we witness in these days, Russia’s aggression of Ukraine, is a war against democracy itself.”

“It is a war against the idea that the people of Ukraine can take sovereign decisions about their own future. Year after year, Ukraine’s diverse and vibrant civil society has pushed for positive change and has strengthened the country’s democratic institutions. This is exactly what the Kremlin is fighting against” the president of the Commission continued.

“It could not be more symbolic that the first Russian bombs on Kyiv fell right by the gate of a Holocaust memorial and that the Russian propaganda is built on the abominable rhetoric of ‘denazification’ against a democratic Ukraine. We see with great worry the age-old threat of scapegoating the Jewish people in times of war. I know that Israel has helped Ukraine with tonnes of humanitarian aid and a field hospital, and you have welcomed tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees to your land” von der Leyen has underscored.

MEPs welcome Israel Immigration Minister

Brusssels 14.06.2022 Today the Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi addressed the European Parliament Conference on “Ukrainian humanitarian crisis: Current EU efforts and the Israeli experience” welcoming Israel’s Minister for Immigration and Absorption, Pnina Tamano Shata, who visited Brussels for a conference and series of meetings with the Members of the Parliament (MEPs).

“Let me start by warmly welcoming Minister Tamano-Shata to Brussels. I would also like to express my appreciation for MEPs Antonio Lopez-Isturiz and Bert-Jan Ruissen and also the President of the European Parliament, for not only hosting this event, but for your dedication to EU-Israel partnership. And many thanks also for Rabbi Margolin for not only organising this event, but for your commitment to foster and protect Jewish life in Europe and beyond” Olivér Várhelyi underlined.

“It is my pleasure to address you today on this timely topic “How the EU and Israel align in their support to Ukraine. We are living in turbulent times. In addition to the socio-economic challenges of the COVID pandemic, we are now facing the consequences of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

“The war is back on our continent, with immense suffering to the Ukrainian people and massive destruction of the country. We do not yet know how this conflict will be resolved. We do not yet know what the casualties and the damage are going to be. But we do know that the human suffering it has caused is enormous…” Commissioner said.

“The State of Israel, from its very founding, has always been a nation of immigrants and refugees.the State of Israel was established as the State of the Jewish People, many of whom arrived as refugees in the last century after war world tow ,many of them survived the Holocaust. In fact, it was these immigrants and refugees who built the state” Minister Tamano-Shata said.

“Therefore, a cornerstone of every Israeli government is our duty to help immigrants and refugees who are eligible to become citizens under the Law of Return. And I am thankful that over the past months, I have been able to continue to carry out this national mission’ the Minister continued.

“In the personal level, These days, more than ever, I feel deeply that it is a great privilege to be one of the decision-makers in the government working to provide extensive humanitarian aid to Ukrainian refugees escaping the war zone”.

Meeting with Commissioner Varheyli, the European Parliament Vice-President Nicola Beer, cross-party MEPs and Ambassadors from the EU, Israel and Ukraine, the Minister underlined the role played by Israel in helping refugees from Ukraine feel at home.

The co-organiser of the event the Brussels-based European Jewish Association (EJA), representing hundreds of communities and thousands of Jews across the European continent has played a prominent role in enhancing the visit of the Israel Minister. The EJA efforts were highly appreciated by the Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi and the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs).

EU-Israel constructive exchange

Brussels 12.07.2021 “We had a discussion over lunch with the new Israeli Foreign Minister, Yair Lapid. You know that the European Union and Israel share deep political, historical and cultural ties” the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell said at the press-conference in Brussels, concluding the EU Council of Foreign ministers.

“We had a friendly, open and constructive exchange on our bilateral relations, but also on the situation in the region – especially related to the [Middle East] Peace Process and the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Iran nuclear deal] negotiations”.

“The fact that [Foreign] Minister Lapid decided to follow up on my invitation to attend todays’ meeting, and with this to allow for an exchange with the new administration, shows that we have a chance for a fresh start and for strengthening our bilateral relations. But, these bilateral relations are also conditioned to many issues in which we have differences. And the proof is that the Association Agreement meetings have been cancelled since 2012, [as far as] I remember. It is quite a long time, almost 10 years”.

“We discussed also the Middle East Peace Process. Here I want to stress very clearly that Israel’s security is non-negotiable. We stand firmly for Israel’s security and condemn terrorism, but at the same time, we expect Israel to offer a political perspective to end the conflict. To find a solution with the Palestinians can only contribute to Israel’s security and we have a Foreign Minister from Israel that has publicly been advocating in favour of the ‘two-state solution’ – which is the solution that we, European Union, are strongly supporting”.

“A credible engagement, a stronger relationship with Israel needs to revive a path towards peace and justice for Israelis and Palestinians both alike. We remain ready and willing to support both in the efforts to rebuild a meaningful political process. We know that this is not going to be for tomorrow, we know the special composition of the Israeli government, but we have been very interested in listening the explanations of the Foreign Minister and his good will in order to improve the everyday life of the Palestinians and to advance in cooperation and working together towards resuming the holding of Association Council meetings if the conditions are met”.

“For this, we need, on one hand, to reach a consensus among Member States and, on the other hand, Israel has also to do its part”.

Borrell concludes EU DIPLOMATS Council

Brussels 12.07.2021 “We started today’s Foreign Affairs Council with a discussion on the external and geopolitical impact of the new digital technologies. These technologies are crucial for our societies and economies. They are becoming an object and a driver of geopolitical competition and global influence. Certainly, global actors are using these new technologies to manipulate the information environment, to influence our public debates and to interfere in our democratic processes” the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell said, concluding the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels.

As European Union, we need to use our unique capacity as regulatory power, setting global norms and standards to maintain an open system, centred on the rule of law. We want to work together with partners from the United States to the Indo-Pacific, Africa and Latin America.

We agreed with the European External Action Service and the European Commission to continue our work on structuring a coherent digital external policy. For sure, in the months to come we are going to go back to this very much important issue and in order to be prepared for that, at the European External Action Service, we have created a new division to deal with the connectivity and digital transformation issues.

Also, for the first time, the Foreign Ministers discussed the Strategic Compass. It is something that the Ministers of Defence have been involved in on several occasions and will continue being involved in the next informal meeting in September, but today the Foreign Ministers – at their request – have been involved in the discussion about: how to better prepare for future crises; how to reinforce our resilience against threats, for example in the cyber space; how to reinforce our partnerships to meet common challenges; and how to develop a common strategic culture.

I presented to the Ministers the schedule in order to be able, by November, to present a first draft and, by March [next year], to adopt the Strategic Compass. I think that it is a very important initiative. I do not care if it is controversial, I prefer to have controversies [rather] than indifferences and I think that the Foreign Ministers took stock of the importance of this project. Let us hope that by November the Ministers will have a full draft of the Strategic Compass.

Talking about defence and security issues, today we formally established, in a record time, the new European Training Mission for Mozambique. This is the second Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) mission that is being created during my mandate.

It has been done in a record time, in European terms ‘record time’ does not mean very quickly, but it has been done quicker than in any other mission.

The new mission will be a fundamental part of our response to the government of Mozambique’s request to address the crisis in Cabo Delgado, in the northern part of the country, and to contribute to reinforce and re-establish security.

This mission will train selected Mozambican units to help the armed forces in their efforts to bring back safety and security. This commitment now needs to be properly resourced and accompanied by the adequate assistance measures. So, I have been asking the Member States, once the mission has been agreed, to bring, to provide the means, the staff that this mission will require. It is not going to be a big mission, like the one that we have in Mali, but it is important that the people who will go to Mozambique to train Mozambican units will be highly qualified military elements.

We had a discussion over lunch with the new Israeli Foreign Minister, Yair Lapid. You know that the European Union and Israel share deep political, historical and cultural ties.

We had a friendly, open and constructive exchange on our bilateral relations, but also on the situation in the region – especially related to the [Middle East] Peace Process and the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Iran nuclear deal] negotiations.

The fact that [Foreign] Minister Lapid decided to follow up on my invitation to attend todays’ meeting, and with this to allow for an exchange with the new administration, shows that we have a chance for a fresh start and for strengthening our bilateral relations. But, these bilateral relations are also conditioned to many issues in which we have differences. And the proof is that the Association Agreement meetings have been cancelled since 2012, [as far as] I remember. It is quite a long time, almost 10 years.

We discussed also the Middle East Peace Process. Here I want to stress very clearly that Israel’s security is non-negotiable. We stand firmly for Israel’s security and condemn terrorism, but at the same time, we expect Israel to offer a political perspective to end the conflict. To find a solution with the Palestinians can only contribute to Israel’s security and we have a Foreign Minister from Israel that has publicly been advocating in favour of the ‘two-state solution’ – which is the solution that we, European Union, are strongly supporting.

A credible engagement, a stronger relationship with Israel needs to revive a path towards peace and justice for Israelis and Palestinians both alike. We remain ready and willing to support both in the efforts to rebuild a meaningful political process. We know that this is not going to be for tomorrow, we know the special composition of the Israeli government, but we have been very interested in listening the explanations of the Foreign Minister and his good will in order to improve the everyday life of the Palestinians and to advance in cooperation and working together towards resuming the holding of Association Council meetings if the conditions are met.

For this, we need, on one hand, to reach a consensus among Member States and, on the other hand, Israel has also to do its part.

After a long discussion with the Foreign Affairs Minister of the new Israeli government, we went to the discussion on Ethiopia.

You know that the situation in the Tigray region has never been as bad, despite of the ceasefire announced by the government of Ethiopia. What we are seeing in Tigray, what we are afraid Trigay is going to suffer, is a serious humanitarian crisis, with almost 1 million [people] – 850,000 [people] at risk of famine, and ongoing use of violence against civilians and rape as a weapon of war. The ceasefire is a positive step, but what is happening today is that the Tigray region is being cut-off from the rest of the world by destroying critical infrastructure of transportation, and this, as I said, could bring to the region the risk of mass famine.

We, at the European Union, the Commission, will organise an [humanitarian] air bridge to try to bring support to the region, but you can imagine that we cannot solve the problem of a famine affecting 850,000 people. It is something that is out of our capability, it will require the mobilisation – for this almost 1 million people, 850,000 people – of the United Nations agencies, and to ensure humanitarian access. We are ready to support the population, but we call on the Member States to provide donations as a clear sign of European Union solidarity.

[We should focus on these priorities:] To consolidate the ceasefire, the withdrawal of foreign forces from Ethiopian territory. To stop Human Rights violations. And to launch a reconciliation and national dialogue in order to preserve the integrity and political unity of Ethiopia, which remains a clear strategic objective.

Finally, we should be ready to use restrictive measures where we believe they are justified and necessary in advancing these goals. I believe that the situation in Ethiopia would certainly require that we consider this possibility along all options at our disposal. This option, the option of restrictive measures – to my understanding – must be on the table.

With ministers, we also addressed the situation in Afghanistan. The fighting is having a grave impact on civilians. The number of civilian casualties has grown 23% in the first semester of this year. We condemn the increasing targeted attacks against the Hazara community and other religious and ethnic groups.

The Ministers have unanimously urged the Taliban to engage in substantive and inclusive peace negotiations. We also call on countries of the region and the broader international community to play a constructive role in support of the Afghan peace process. I will be reaching out to many of the regional actors in the conference I will be attending in Tashkent, in Uzbekistan(link is external), in the coming days, where we expect the attendance of the President of Afghanistan.

On Lebanon, it seems to me that Europeans are more concerned with the search for a political solution to the country than the Lebanese politicians themselves, which is quite strange. After my visit to Lebanon, the political stalemate persists, the economy is imploding and the suffering of the people of Lebanon is continuously growing. They need to have a Lebanese government in order to avoid a crackdown of the country, fully able to implement the reforms and protect its population. This is in the interest of the Lebanese people, from all confessions and political orientations.

The Ministers reached a political understanding that a sanctions regime against those who are responsible for the situation should be established. In light of the preparatory technical work, the legal acts will be worked on and a decision will be adopted by the Council in order to create this new sanctions regime without delay. I can say that the objective is to complete this by the end of the month. I am not talking about the implementation of the regime, just the building of the regime according with sound legal basis.

On Belarus, the repression by the regime continues. Over the last few weeks, we have seen large-scale bulldozing of the independent media.

We have expressed our full solidarity with Lithuania on the expulsion of their diplomatic staff. We are following closely the situation at the Lithuania-Belarus border, where there are reports that the regime is now sending migrants to the Polish border too.

We call on Belarusian authorities to stick to their international commitments and obligations. We took already a number of restrictive measures and we are ready to consider further response to this behaviour. To use migrants as a weapon, pushing people to the borders is unacceptable and that is what is happening in the Lithuanian and Polish borders.

Finally, Cyprus. We are concerned about developments on the ground in Varosha. The European Union, through the President of the Commission [Ursula von der Leyen] and the President of the European Council [Charles Michel] has repeatedly reaffirmed the status of Varosha and called for the Turkish authorities not to create a situation, which could be against the United Nations decisions. The status of Varosha is set out in relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions, and it is important, as the two Presidents have directly addressed to the highest authorities in Turkey, to refrain from provocative actions.

Our priority is to focus on getting the Cyprus settlement talks [to restart], that is what we are working on, trying to avoid any kind of trouble, trying to avoid to get trapped in a negative spiral again. Our wish is to work on the settlement of the Cyprus issue. The Ministers today also rejected the two-state solution in Cyprus and on that we are firmly united. Let us hope that we are not going to have, on the following days, reasons for the calling of an extraordinary Foreign Affairs Council”.

NATO receives ISRAEL Foreign Minister Lapid

Brussels 12.07.2021 Today NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg met at NATO Headquarters with H.E. Yair Lapid, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Alternate Prime Minister of Israel. They discussed a range of issues related to NATO-Israel relations.

The Secretary General said that Israel is one of NATO’s most engaged and capable partners, and he pointed out that exchanges at the staff-to-staff and expert-level have continued, despite the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Israel has been an important partner to NATO for more than 20 years, as well as an active member of NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue. NATO and Israel cooperate in different domains, including science and technology, civil emergencies preparedness and management, resilience, counter-terrorism, military medicine, countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and women, peace and security.

Secretary General Stoltenberg and Minister Lapid also shared views on the prospects for potential cooperation between NATO and Israel in other areas of shared interest, including climate change, defence innovation, and emerging and disruptive technologies. He also restressed Allies’ continued calls on Iran to uphold and fully implement all its obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and its safeguard agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and refrain from all activities which are inconsistent with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231.

EU congratulates new Israel Prime Minister

Brussels 14.06.2021 The EU Council president Charles Michel congratulated Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on forming a government with Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid after it was sworn in earlier that evening, and expressed his wishes to further strengthen ties between the EU and Israel.

“…Looking forward to strengthen the EU-Israël partnership for common prosperity and towards lasting regional peace and stability” Michel wrote on his Twitter micro blog.

“Spoke to Yair Lapid to warmly congratulate him for his appointment” the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell wrote.
“Discussed the importance of strengthening the bilateral EU-Israël partnership and promoting security and peace in the region. Looking forward to working together welcoming you soon in Brussels” the EU diplomat added.

Lisbon: Informal meeting of EU top diplomats

Brussels 27.05.2011 “We are going to discuss about Belarus today, for sure. It is only two days after the [EU] leaders took important decisions on Belarus and we are going to discuss how to implement the decision of going to economic and sectorial sanctions to Belarus. This is going to be an important issue on our meeting.
(Image above: Lisbon, Portugal)

But we are going to talk also about the European Union-Africa Partnership, about the Indo-Pacific Strategy and about the conflicts in our Eastern Neighbourhood, which are affecting our security.

So we have a lot of issues on the table.

We will start by Belarus, the hijacking of the plane and the detention of two passengers is something that is completely unacceptable. And we will start discussing the implementation of the sectorial and economic sanctions.

That is all I can tell you. Keep in mind: Indo-Pacific, European Union-Africa partnership, Belarus and the conflicts in our Eastern Partnership [region].

Also, during the lunch, the Foreign Affairs Minister of Jordan [Ayman Safadi] will join us and we will take stock of the situation in the Middle East, especially the situation of the conflict between Israel and Palestine after the ceasefire”.

EU Foreign Affairs Ministers (Gymnich) hold an informal meeting, on 27 May 2021, in Lisbon. The meeting is chaired by Josep Borrell, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

EU welcomes Israel-Palestine ceasefire

Brussels 21.05.2021 Israel/Palestine: Statement by the High Representative Josep Borrell on the ceasefire:

The European Union welcomes the announced ceasefire bringing to an end the violence in and around Gaza. We commend Egypt, Qatar, United Nations, United States and others who have played a facilitating role in this.

We are appalled and regret the loss of life over these past 11 days. As the EU has consistently reiterated, the situation in the Gaza Strip has long been unsustainable. Only a political solution will bring sustainable peace and end once for all the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Restoring a political horizon towards a two-state solution now remains of utmost importance. The EU is ready to fully support Israeli and Palestinian authorities in these efforts.

The EU is renewing its engagement with key international partners, including the United States, and other partners in the region, as well as with the revitalised Middle East Quartet, to this end”.

The ceasefire began early on Friday, bringing to an end 11 days of fighting in which more than 250 people were killed, most of them in Gaza.

Palestinians poured on to the streets of Gaza soon after the truce began, while a Hamas official warned the group had not let down its guard.

Both Israel and Hamas have claimed victory in the conflict.

US President Joe Biden said the ceasefire brought a “genuine opportunity” for progress.

Soon after it started at 02:00 on Friday (23:00 GMT on Thursday), large numbers of Palestinians took to the streets in cars and on foot to celebrate. In Gaza, drivers honked their horns, while loudspeakers from mosques pronounced “the victory of the resistance”.

Israel’s military said it was removing nearly all emergency restrictions on movement throughout the country.

Gaza: Hamas inside AP building

Brussels 16.05.2021 Israel shared intelligence with the US showing how Hamas operated inside the same building with Associated Press and Al-Jazeera in Gaza, officials in Jerusalem said on Sunday, 16 May.

Officials in more than one government office confirmed that US President Joe Biden’s phone call to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday, May 15, was, in part, about the bombing of the building, and that Israel showed Biden and American officials the intelligence behind the action.

We showed them the smoking gun proving Hamas worked out of that building,” a source close to Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said. “I understand they found the explanation satisfactory.”

Another senior Israeli official admitted that the fact that the bombing took place two days after a tweet by the IDF misled some foreign media into reporting that ground troops had entered Gaza made the situation more difficult, from a public diplomacy perspective.

GAZA: EU diplomacy urgent meeting

16.05.2021 The EU top diplomat Josep Borrell has announced an extraordinary meeting of the Foreign ministers of the bloc to discuss the ways of contributing to the de-escalation of the situation in Gaza. The gathering of the top diplomats will take place via Video-Tele-Conferencing (TVC) on Tuesday 18 May.

“In view of the ongoing escalation between Israel and Palestine and the unacceptable number of civilian casualties, I am convening an extraordinary VTC of the EU Foreign Ministers on Tuesday. We will coordinate and discuss how the EU can best contribute to end the current violence” the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell wrote on his Twitter micro blog.

Palestine is a beneficiary of the European Peacebuilding Initiative together with Israel and Jordan.. Its overall objective is to facilitate the peace process by supporting a solid foundation at civil society level for a fair and lasting settlement in the Middle East. The programme distributes €5 million per year to Civil Society Organisations promoting links across the political divide in Jordan, Israel and Palestine.

Other regional programmes include actions in the area of Political and Social Development, Trade and Economic Development.

The European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) is the main EU financing instrument for Palestine. EU funding is allocated in line with the multi-annual European Joint Strategy in support of Palestine 2017-2020 – Towards a democratic and accountable Palestinian State. The Strategy sets out targeted and shared priorities of the EU and the EU Member States. It is aligned with the Palestine National Policy Agenda 2017-2022, adopted by the Palestinian Authority in December 2016.

The multi-annual financial allocation for Palestine under the ENI for 2017-2020 amounts to €1.28 billion.

For the period 2017-2020, the EU’s bilateral assistance to Palestine under the ENI focuses on the following priority sectors:

Governance Reform, Fiscal Consolidation and Policy;
Rule of Law, Justice, Citizen Safety and Human Rights;
Sustainable Service Delivery;
Access to Self-Sufficient Water and Energy Services;
Sustainable Economic Development.
The EU’s cooperation portfolio in Palestine focuses on:

i) Direct Financial Support
The EU is helping the Palestinian Authority meet its recurrent expenditure by contributing to the payment of salaries and pensions of a number of civil servants in the West Bank. It also provides assistance to the most vulnerable Palestinian families and helps pay for health referrals to the East Jerusalem hospitals. This support is channelled through the PEGASE instrument (Mécanisme Palestino-européen de Gestion de l’Aide Socio-économique). It is accompanied by a policy dialogue aimed at encouraging reforms, which includes an incentive-based framework that links part of this support to reforms in key sectors.

In 2020, the total EU contribution to PEGASE amounts to €159.05 million of which €85 million for salaries and pensions, €22,5 million to support the response of the East Jerusalem Hospitals to COVID-19 and €45 million to support the incomes of the most vulnerable households.

ii) Support to Palestine refugees
The EU with its Member States is by far the largest provider of assistance to Palestine refugees. The EU’s funding is used to ensure that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East’s (UNRWA) is able to provide health, education and social services, including salaries for teachers, doctors and social workers active in refugee camps.

The total EU contribution to UNRWA in 2018,2019 and 2020 was €395.6 million including ENI contributions to the programme budget, contributions from the EU Regional Trust Fund in response to the Syrian Crisis, EU humanitarian aid, the food security programme under the Development Cooperation Instrument and the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace.

iii) Development programmes
EU-funded development programmes in Palestine focus on job creation and access to water and energy. It is also used to support cooperation between Israel and Palestine, notably on energy and water, working with the Office of the Quartet. The Gaza Central Desalination Plant is a flagship programme supported by the EU, in cooperation with Arab donors via the Islamic Development Bank. It aims to ensure that the Gazan population has access to clean drinking water by providing a minimum of 55 million m3 of safe and clean drinking water per year. Parts of the Associated Works have already started in 2019.

In 2019 the first twinning project started in Palestine in the field of customs. Palestine benefited from 17 TAIEX (Technical Assistance and Information Exchange instrument) events in 2019. In addition, €12 million are allocated each year to projects in East Jerusalem, which is a key priority to keep the negotiated two-state solution alive, and to resolve “the status of Jerusalem as the capital of both states” as reflected in the EU Council Conclusions of 22 July 2014.

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