EU May Push Israel Into Corner With New Mideast Plan

YERUSHALAYIM -

A new Mideast peace plan is in the works in the European Union, diplomatic sources told Ynet on Sunday.

The initiative, aimed at the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders with east Yerushalayim as its capital is said to have the support so far of France, Britain and Germany.

The plan will present a clear timetable for negotiations of the core issues during 2013, with the hope that discussions will begin in March after a newly elected Israeli government is in place.

The plan will likely also include a demand to again freeze construction in Yehudah and Shomron, which Israel has steadfastly resisted after a 2010 moratorium produced only Palestinian foot-dragging.

The EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton is examining the possibility of making it an all-European proposal.

There is also talk of a regional Middle Eastern committee with the participation of Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf States.

Jordan’s King Abdullah confirmed his country’s role on Sunday in an interview with French publication Le Nouvel Observateur:

Abdullah said he expects to host talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority as soon as next month, hoping to take advantage of what he called a “window of opportunity.”

“We are working closely with several parties in Europe, including France, to put some effective and workable ideas on the table that would enable the U.S. to engage and play a leading role in the peace process soon after the start of the second term of President [Barack] Obama,” Abdullah said in his interview translated into English by The Jordan Times.

Such a committee could well marginalize Israel, but a refusal to join it will be interpreted as a rejection of the peace process. The Palestinians have already said they will accept an invitation to a committee of the kind described.

“There is great movement behind the scenes,” a senior Israeli official told Ynet. “The Europeans can’t force Israel to enter into an agreement, but they can certainly put us in an awkward position.

“They are drafting a document which will present the principles of the future peace accord, putting it on the table as a challenge. It is likely the Palestinians will accept it and that Israel will have some difficulty. It will drive us into the corner.”

The Palestinians meanwhile have asked for a meeting of the U.N. Security Council on January 23, a day after the Israeli elections, to discuss construction in Yehuda and Shomron, and particularly the E1 construction plan.

They demand that the discussion include foreign ministers so that Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki will be able to attend it for the first time as a representative of “Palestine.”

Israel has already registered its objections to such a discussion with U.N. Sec.-Gen. Ban ki-Moon.