Israeli PM welcomes EU decision to resume Association Council sessions

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid welcomed the European Union’s decision to resume Association Council sessions with Israel for the first time in a decade.

Lapid said in a statement on Tuesday that a new era had begun in EU-Israel relations.

Political sources have confirmed that Lapid intends to travel to Brussels to attend a conference with EU foreign ministers, which he will benefit from during his election campaign.

“The fact that the 27 Foreign Ministers of the European Union voted unanimously to strengthen economic and diplomatic relations with Israel is proof of Israel’s diplomatic power and the ability of the government to create new opportunities with the international community,” Lapid said.

EU foreign ministers voted unanimously in Brussels on Monday to relaunch the EU-Israel Association Council.

He said the Council is the highest political body responsible for promoting all of Israel’s relations with the EU, including at the political, economic and technological levels.

Lapid said the Council would allow Israel to continue to develop its relations with the European Union for the benefit and well-being of the citizens of Israel.

The EU has maintained close relations with Israel to advance the idea of ​​including it as a member state. But differences during Benjamin Netanyahu’s tenure created a rift in relations, which led to the termination of Israeli participation in the Dialogue Council in 2012.

Last year, Lapid was invited to attend the meeting of EU foreign ministers, and the Association Council meeting was set as one of the main goals in promoting Israeli-European relations. .

Over the past year, relations have grown and they have signed the Horizon program, which offers research and development funding and cooperation in various fields.

Other examples are the visits of senior EU officials to Israel, including European Parliament President Roberta Metsola and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

According to the Walla news site in Tel Aviv, the step is key to improving relations between Israel and the EU and is an important achievement for Lapid, who has identified strengthening ties with the EU as one of his main objectives when he assumed the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs about a year ago.

The website reported that 27 European Union foreign ministers attended their monthly meeting in Brussels, and the annual political meeting with Israel was on the agenda.

The report quoted a senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official as saying a date for the two sides to meet has yet to be set.

At a press conference in Brussels following the Foreign Affairs Council meeting, European High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell said that the Union’s position on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and its support for the two-state solution had not changed.

“The EU’s position has not changed on the Middle East peace process, and we will continue…to support the two-state solution,” Borrell said.

“We know that the situation on the ground in the Palestinian territories is deteriorating, and I think ministers agree that this Association Council is a good opportunity to engage with Israel on these issues,” he said, adding that this would be an appropriate moment to reflect on the position of the EU in the peace process.

A far-right Israeli opposition source reveals that right-wing parties in Brussels tried to dissuade the Union from taking the decision at this precise moment so that it would not appear as interference in the Israeli elections. in favor of Lapid.

However, almost all of the foreign ministers who attended the meeting agreed that there was no need to wait until after Israel’s elections in early November to meet.

Borrell noted that they won’t necessarily wait until after the Nov. 1 election or a new government is formed.

“Who knows when the next Israeli government will be formed? Maybe it will be in six months or a year,” Borrell said.

Andrew B. Reiter