In a dramatic move, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday announced the suspension of ties with all European institutions.
The move was made in response to the EU’s decision, two weeks ago, to label goods produced in the West Bank as made in area “occupied by Israel.”
The timing of the decision was not explained. Israel did not recall its ambassador in Brussels and did not invite the EU’s ambassador to Israel, Lars Faaborg-Andersen , for consultations.
Emmanuel Nahshon, the foreign ministry spokesman issued a statement saying that Israel would “suspend diplomatic contacts with EU institutions and their representatives” until the completion of a “re-evaluation process.”
The directive, he emphasized, followed “the EU’s decision on the product labeling. It is important to clarify Israel maintains diplomatic contacts with individual countries in Europe such as Germany, Britain and France, but not with the EU institutions.”
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“This decision is almost completely devoid of any real significance,” a senior Israeli official with close knowledge of Israel’s ties with the EU told the Israeli daily Ha’aretz. “It’s like the EU saying it is cutting communications with Israel but continuing to hold talks with each of its minister’s independently.”
Still, the announcement made waves, leaving Israeli diplomatic correspondents scratching their heads and EU diplomats in Tel Aviv scrambling to understand is the prime minister’s pique would translate into real action.
The move came two days after Israel announced the opening of a diplomatic mission in the United Arab Emirates. Officially, the representative will be accredited to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) that is headquartered in Abu Dhabi.
Unofficially, the move is seen as an Israeli trial balloon in the Gulf Emirates.