JERUSALEM, Israel – Foreign ministers in the European Union voted unanimously on Monday to revive a council devoted to strengthening relations with Israel.
The Association Council was established in 1995 and facilitated annual meetings between Israeli and EU leaders about common interests, including political issues, economic development, trade, and technology. The two sides have not met since 2012 due to disagreements over the construction of Israeli settlement communities in the West Bank – biblical Judea and Samaria. The international community considers the settlements to be illegal and the land part of a future Palestinian state, while Israel considers them to be disputed territory and part of its ancient homeland.
Josep Borrell, the EU’s High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs, announced the relaunch of the council and described it as “the highest forum for our bilateral relations.”
“The position of the European Union has not changed with respect to the Middle East Peace Process. We continue with the same Council Conclusion of 2016 supporting the two-state solution. We know that the situation on the ground in the Palestinian territories is deteriorating, and I think – and the Ministers agreed - that this Association Council would be a good occasion to engage with Israel about these issues. The date will be agreed mutually with Israel. But first, the European Union Member States have to start working and determine a common European Union position, as with any Association Council meeting,” said Borrell.
The office of Prime Minister Yair Lapid called the renewal a “major achievement for Israel.”
“The fact that 27 EU Foreign Ministers have voted unanimously in favor of strengthening economic and diplomatic ties with Israel is proof of Israel’s diplomatic strength and this government’s ability to create new opportunities with the international community.”