Israeli reservations on the Italian-Spanish peace proposal with Palestine

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Peace in the Middle East was the focus of a videoconference meeting between the Italian Deputy Foreign Minister, Marina Sereni, the Spanish Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Cristina Gallach, and the Special Coordinator of the United Nations Secretary General for the Process of Peace in the Middle East, Tor Wennesland.

The meeting is part of the Italian-Spanish initiative launched by Ministers Di Maio and Gonzales Laya at the bilateral summit in Palma de Mallorca on 25 November. An initiative that aims, through the joint action of the two countries, to keep the Peace Process at the center of the international agenda, also raising the profile of the European Union in the dossier. The main subject of the discussion was the definition of priorities for action by the international community and the EU after the cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hamas which came into effect on 21 May.

Sereni, Gallach and Wennesland agreed that attention must now focus on consolidating the truce, by lowering the tension in East Jerusalem and reaching an agreement between Israel and Hamas for a long-term ceasefire.

Read | Israel launches overnight airstrikes on Gaza in response to incendiary balloons release from Hamas

It is also essential to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza and to start the reconstruction of the Strip in ways that “guarantee that the funds are destined for the population”, Sereni specified. It is also important, according to Sereni, that “the Palestinian Authority is given a central role in the reconstruction, also to strengthen its credibility and authority in the eyes of the Palestinians. In this regard it is important to support the intra-Palestinian reconciliation process, also to confer legitimacy on the leaders who will then have to deal with Israel.” They also agreed on the need to restart as soon as possible the action of the “International Quartet for the Middle East”, the only one entitled to play a mediating role in the Peace Process.

“We are willing to study any proposal. Spain and Italy have coherent positions for a peace based on international law and an end to the occupation”. Ahmad Majdalani, minister and member of the PLO Executive Committee, welcomes the Italian-Spanish initiative which aims to relaunch the role of the EU in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Relations between Europe and the Palestinians have known better times. Brussels did not appreciate the cancellation of the elections and is calling for an investigation into the recent killing of activist Nizar Banat, a well-known opponent of the PNA. But brushing up on the Quartet and a European role in the Middle East remains among the wishes of Ramallah, which historically has had more allies in Europe than in Washington.

Ambassador AviGranot, with a long career in Israeli diplomacy, seems sceptical about what could be “one initiative among many others.” But does Israel see the EU as an interlocutor? “Europe feels it is just a stopover on its way to Washington. Israel does not believe that the EU fully understands the Middle East issue: when, for example, it condemns us for fighting Hamas – while there is no European state that would accept a single rocket on its territory. So, you do not gain credibility as an interlocutor.”

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