The president of the European Union Council hosted Israeli President Reuven Rivlin Tuesday for talks on joint security cooperation and, of course, the “peace process” with the Palestinian Authority.
EU Council President Donald Tusk talked with Rivlin about Israel’s relations with the European Union and about ways to improve cooperation in a number of areas, especially security and intelligence.
Following their meeting, Tusk thanked his Israeli counterpart for his “warm hospitality” during his own visit to Israel. “I remember it was an excellent visit and exchange of views,” he said.
“I know that today we have here not only the President of Israel, but also our good friend and our discussions today showed that it is true,” he said. Tusk maintained that “the European Union and Israel are strong partners. We share many values and cooperate closely across many areas. Together we have built the most highly developed relationship that the European Union enjoys in the region,” he said.
That is surprising, given the amount of money the EU donates to the Palestinian Authority, an action that should have won the European body some brownie points with the PA’s Arab backers in the region.
“We spoke about ways to further strengthen our relationship, including the new European Neighborhood Policy,” Tusk said. “We agreed that the European Union and Israel will identify jointly partnership priorities to give even greater focus to our cooperation,” he continued, underlining security and the war on terror as a particular priority for both sides.
“I think that Brussels is, unfortunately, the best place to discuss this issue. I expressed again my condolences for the victims of the recent attack in Tel Aviv. I also welcomed Israel’s offer to deepen our cooperation on counter-terrorism, including by re-launching our dialogue in this area later this year. Terrorism can only be defeated if we face it together,” he maintained.
Tusk added that because a “lasting peace in the region” remains a top priority for the EU, Brussels is determined to continue to “work with both sides and coordinate with partners in the Middle East Quartet to support the two-state solution.
“The European Union is ready to back up a peace deal with an unprecedented package of cooperation and support to both Israel and the future state of Palestine,” he said — a reference to a proposal that was first mentioned in 2013.
Tusk also said the EU will continue to provide assistance to Arabs living in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, “to enable them to meet their basic humanitarian and development needs.” That assistance has in some respects stepped way over the line for the State of Israel, with unauthorized, illegal construction of buildings for “Palestinian Authority Arabs” in Area C of territories under the Oslo Accords that are legally administered under the Israeli government.
Tusk said he welcomes the “temporary freeze in demolitions of Palestinian property announced by Israel for the month of Ramadan. We hope this freeze can become a basis for a more permanent solution, such as a full moratorium on demolitions and confiscations in Area C…”