The European Union should confine itself to supervising reforms in the Palestinian Authority rather than trying to play a central role in the Middle East peace process, according to a senior Israeli cabinet advisor.
As EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana attended a ‘quartet' meeting in New York to hammer out a common position, the Israeli diplomat delivered another blow to EU aspirations to kick-start dialogue between the sides.
The aide to Israeli leader Ariel Sharon, who spoke on condition he was not identified, said: “We think the US is more balanced in its approach to the conflict [than the EU].” He also reiterated his government's call to the EU to stop dealing with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat. “We have shown that Chairman Arafat is tainted with terror,” he added.
The Israeli dismissed the involvement of the United Nations and Russia in efforts to resume the peace process. “We don't think anyone can dictate to us what our relationship with the Palestinians should be,” he said.
He said that the EU should be content to assist fiscal and electoral reform in the Palestinian Authority, along with economic aid to rebuild its infrastructure.
His views did not go down well with the European Commission. “We reject the notion that the EU is biased,” Gunnar Wiegand, spokesman for external relations chief Chris Patten, said. “We take the interests of all the sides into account.
“We are committed to facilitating the reform process, but we are not willing to play the role of those who merely fund,” Wiegand added. “The US alone cannot achieve a peaceful settlement.”
He referred to this week's meeting of the ‘quartet' – Kofi Annan (UN), Colin Powell (US) Igor Ivanov (Russia) and Solana – as the way forward. They four agreed on Tuesday to coordinate efforts to support Palestinian political and economic reform, with a view to achieving a possible Israeli-Palestinian settlement within three years.
This article first appeared in the 18-24 July 2002 edition of The European Voice.