The European Union once again sent strong warning messages to Israeli Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu on Friday, cautioning him that EU ties with Israel could take a turn for the worse if he rejects a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Netanyahu this week said his future government would negotiate peace with the Palestinians, but made no mention of a policy aim long backed by both the United States and Europe.
Karel Schwarzenberg, foreign minister of the Czech Republic which currently holds the EU presidency, said that if the new Israeli government does not commit itself to establishing a Palestinian state, "relations would become very difficult indeed."
"At one of our next ministerial meetings we would have to discuss what consequences the EU would draw from that," he added after chairing the opening day of a two-day EU foreign ministers meeting.
"Both parties must stick to their commitments from the past: A two-state solution and all agreements reached over the past few years," Schwarzenberg said.
He hailed US President Barack Obama's early commitment to the “Middle East peace process”.
The administration of former US president George W. Bush "really turned its attention to the Middle East rather late," he said, adding that Obama's early commitment to the Middle East process means "there is real hope for progress in the region."
Speaking after EU talks, Schwarzenberg did not elaborate but Luxembourg's Jean Asselborn said a long-mooted upgrading of EU-Israeli trade and political ties depended on Israel achieving a peace deal with the Palestinians.
"We must tell the Israelis that it is not allowed to walk away from the peace process... The upgrading process was always to be viewed from the perspective of the peace process having been completed," Asselborn told reporters.
Earlier this month, EU foreign policy Chief Javier Solana warned that the bloc may reevaluate its ties with Israel if the incoming government isn't committed to a two-state solution.
"Let me say very clearly that the way the European Union will relate to an [Israeli] government that is not committed to a two-state solution will be very, very different," Solana said.
The bloc "will be ready to do business as usual, normally, with a government in Israel that will continue talking for a two-state solution," Solana later told reporters.
Zalman Shoval, a former ambassador to the US and a top adviser to Netanyahu, told The Jerusalem Post at the time that the new Israeli government had every intention of respecting its international obligations as long as they did not pose a security threat.
"The European Union and this government are going to get along very well, given that most of the countries in Europe today are under leaderships who are basically friendly to Israel," said Shoval. "I do not foresee any major problems."
Netanyahu, he said, intended to continue to actively pursue negotiations with the Palestinians. However, he added, "we are not saying a priori what the solution would be."