Hotovely Sets Mogherini Straight on Peace Process

YERUSHALAYIM -

Israel’s new Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely met with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on Wednesday and told her that, despite media reports and European opinion, it was the Palestinians, not her government, that was to blame for the collapse of the peace talks.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is committed to a diplomatic solution, she said, and the Palestinians were the ones who abandoned the negotiations a year and a half ago, and who have continued to undermine the process through unilateral moves against Israel in international forums.

In a meeting between Mogherini and Netanyahu later on, he reaffirmed that “I want peace. I am not for a one-state solution. I support the vision of two states.”

Netanyahu added, however, his oft-stated condition that the “Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish State.”

Hotovely urged the EU visitor to strongly condemn terror incidents such as the one in Yerushalayim on Wednesday in which a Palestinian rammed his car into two policewomen.

On a more diplomatic note, Hotovely welcomed Mogherini’s statement that she was interested in coming now after the establishment of the new Israeli government to listen to both sides, and said her visit had a “great deal of importance.”

Mogherini was scheduled to meet opposition head Isaac Herzog and President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday. She will also be meeting the Palestinian leadership.

Meanwhile, Herzog sniped at the prime minister’s set-up, saying it had more to do with solving domestic political problems than any problems with the Palestinians.

A day after Netanyahu was quoted saying in closed conversations that he wants to renew the peace talks, Herzog noted that the responsibilities of the Foreign Ministry have been doled out to six different Likud politicians, including Hotovely, Shalom and Yuval Steinitz.

“There may be a peace process between Netanyahu and Silvan Shalom,” Herzog told The Jerusalem Post in an interview, though he doubted there would be one with the Palestinians.

“Spreading out the Foreign Ministry’s functions shows they don’t take what government is about seriously. They degrade what leadership is all about. It’s just another example of Netanyahu’s circus, and it’s sad because the citizens will suffer.”

Nonetheless, Shalom told Army Radio on Tuesday that his attempt to restart talks with the Palestinians had the full blessing of the prime minister.

In a rare criticism of Netanyahu, close ally Likud MK Yuval Steinitz seemed to share Herzog’s view that the Foreign Ministry is not being handled well.

“[Foreign policy] is the responsibility of the prime minister, who is currently also the foreign minister, and even when there is a foreign minister it’s the responsibility of the prime minister,” Steinitz siad on Israel radio.

“It’s not a good situation that there is no foreign minister. It’s no secret that I wanted to be foreign minister. But I will continue to coordinate the government’s efforts against the Iranian nuclear program.”