BRUSSELS – Israel’s Foreign Minister sidestepped discussion of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at a meeting with European Union counterparts on Jan 22, opting to show them aspirational videos of future infrastructure projects.
Mr Israel Katz was in Brussels for discussions on the Middle East.
The talks were largely focused on the consequences of Palestinian armed group Hamas’ Oct 7 attack on Israel and Israel’s retaliatory offensive in Gaza.
EU ministers were keen to stress their calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel as part of a comprehensive long-term peace settlement.
But the Israeli government has pushed back against such calls.
At the meeting, Mr Katz showed the ministers videos of an envisioned artificial island off the coast of Gaza and a rail network linking the Middle East to India, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and other EU diplomats said.
Mr Borrell made clear he was not impressed with the move.
“The minister showed us a couple of videos which had little or nothing to do with the issues we were discussing,” Mr Borrell told reporters, adding that he thought Mr Katz could have made better use of his time with his EU colleagues.
Diplomats said the videos were part of ideas presented by Mr Katz in a previous role and surprised others in the room.
The EU ministers also met separately with their counterparts from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, as well as with Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki as they discussed both the current crisis in Gaza and the broader Middle East.
Ahead of the meeting, Mr Borrell sent a discussion paper to the EU’s 27 member countries, suggesting a road map to peace in the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
At the heart of the plan is a call for a “preparatory peace conference” to be organised by the EU, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the League of Arab States, with the United States and United Nations also invited to be conveners of the gathering.
But the meeting on Jan 22 did not appear to shift Israel’s position a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirmed a hard line against any Palestinian state on the basis that it would pose “an existential danger” to Israel.