MKs demand to see report on Israel’s handling of EU settlement guidelines 11Sep13 September 11, 2013

Haaretz     -     10 September 2013

1531220225Members of the Knesset’s Subcommittee for Foreign Affairs and Publicity sent Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin a letter asking to see the internal report on the failure of Israeli diplomats to warn the government ahead of the recent European Union sanctions against Israeli settlements. Elkin rejected the findings of the report and announced that the report would be quashed.

“We ask to promptly receive the report by former Ambassador Harry Kney-Tal, dealing with the European sanctions against Israel and the Foreign Ministry’s dealings with this matter,” subcommittee chairman MK Ronen Hoffman (Yesh Atid) and member MK Nachman Shai (Labor) wrote to Elkin.

MKs Hoffman and Shai said they intended to hold hearings on the matter in the  subcommittee of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. The letter says they want the discussion on the report’s findings to be “as open as possible”; they would also like to review all information pertaining to the Foreign Ministry’s handling of the European sanctions against Israeli settlements.

MK Shai said that Elkin’s decision to quash the report raises concerns that someone is trying to hide “important information on the handling of the matter by the Foreign Ministry and the government, which is responsible for it,” from the public and the Knesset. MK Shai added that “the Foreign Ministry must provide access to the report in accordance with the democratic principles of the State of Israel.”

Deputy Minister Elkin remarked on why he quashed the report in an interview with Army Radio on Tuesday morning. “The European guidelines targeting the settlements were in the works for several months and drastically changed our cooperation with Europe,” Elkin said. “This was a process that included many people and that is why it important for me to find out why we found out about it only after the fact.”

Elkin said that the Europeans wanted to keep the proceedings under wraps so that Israel wouldn’t take steps to thwart the measure. “But this is no reason for us to refrain from asking ourselves how we didn’t know,” he added. “I am not looking for heads to roll. There are good people in the Foreign Ministry’s main offices and in Brussels, but it is in all of our interest to conduct a real and far-reaching inquiry.”

A senior Foreign Ministry source said, “The report determined that the ministry indeed did not know in advance exactly when the new guidelines would be published and all they would include. But the report’s main message was that the Foreign Ministry did warn of the trend in the EU. The writing was on the wall, but the political leadership ignored it.”

However, the deputy minister added that the problem with the report was not its findings but rather the fact that it is based on “the problematic view that the new guidelines are not a dramatic change,” a view Elkin rejects. “Underestimating the importance of this incident is not serious.”

“You can’t just say that there were only a few minor clauses we didn’t know about. That isn’t true. The fact is that the entire Israeli government is dealing with this as is the American secretary of state. Apparently it is important enough.”

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