EU weighs new methods to coax Israel back to peace talks
BRUSSELS (AP) The European Union is assessing new ways to push Israel back to the peace negotiating table with the Palestinians for a deal based on a two-state solution, working in tandem with the United States, EU officials say.
The EU is exploring new diplomatic terrain and could consider ways to discourage Europeans from buying products from Israeli settlements it believes are illegal.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's election rhetoric has fueled doubts about Israel's commitment to a two-state solution a cornerstone of EU and U.S. policies for ending the Middle East conflict.
"We will not forget or ignore what was being said during the campaign and in particular some of the incendiary statements by Prime Minister Netanyahu," German EU lawmaker Reinhard Buetikofer told The Associated Press.
An EU diplomat dealing with Middle East issues said the Israeli premier's remarks could amount to "a fundamental breach" of the two-state policy.
The Europeans are aware that the rhetoric could remain at fever pitch for the next month as the Israeli leader negotiates a new coalition government and they are reluctant to move too far too fast.
Middle East peace moves have been frozen since the last round of U.S.-brokered talks collapsed last April. Since then, Israel fought a 50-day war against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip and advanced plans to build hundreds of new homes in east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians claim as their capital.
The Palestinians, meanwhile, have sought unilaterally to have their long-hoped for state recognized by nations, like EU member Sweden recently, or organizations such as the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands.
To try to end the stalemate, the EU and the U.S want to breathe new life into the diplomatic Quartet the U.S., EU, United Nations and Russia and the Europeans have just named a new envoy to the region.