EU head backs Netanyahu, but wants settlements removed

Sunday, April 26, 2009 |  Israel Today Staff

Czech Prime Minister Mirel Topolanek, the current head of the European Union, visited Israel late last week and appeared to acquiesce to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's urging that the EU not condition its relations with the Jewish state on progress in the Israeli-Arab peace process.

Netanyahu told Topolanek that Israel is every bit as interested in peace as Europe, and that Israel's relationship with Europe should not be conditioned on its relationship with the Palestinians.

Earlier last week, powerful voices in Europe demanded a halt to the upgrading of ties with Israel until Netanyahu explicitly commits to the creation of a Palestinian state.

When he met with Israeli President Shimon Peres on Friday, Topolanek appeared to have adopted Netanyahu's position, and said he would oppose calls to suspend the upgrading of Europe's ties with Israel.

But Topolanek did press Netanyahu on the continued construction of Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria, lands claimed by the Palestinians. Netanyahu responded that "If Israelis can't build homes in the West Bank then Palestinians shouldn't be allowed to either."

The Israeli leader insisted that those territories remain disputed, and to give Palestinians preferential treatment there is to prejudge the outcome of negotiations.

Topolanek also appeared to side with Israel when he accused his fellow Europeans of being blind to the severity of the Iranian nuclear threat. He defended the recent harsh rhetoric of Israeli leaders addressing that threat.

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