January 14, 2009

EU says Israel agrees "time-out" on upgrading ties

JERUSALEM, Jan 14 (Reuters) - The European Union and Israel have put negotiations over upgrading their ties on hold due to the war in the Gaza Strip, an EU envoy said on Wednesday. Ramiro Cibrian-Uzal, the EU envoy to Israel, speaking to reporters in Jerusalem, did not say how long the "mutually agreed time-out" in negotiations would last.

"In a war situation, in a situation in which Israel is at war, using its war means in a very dramatic way, in a powerful way in Gaza, everybody realises that it is not the appropriate time to upgrade bilateral relations which normally take place in a more ... peaceful context," Cibrian-Uzal said. "There is mutual agreement," he said, dismissing any suggestion that this amounted to a "sanction" against Israel over the war. "The European Union has never contemplated, to my knowledge, has never seriously envisaged sanctions." ( Reuter )
I got a transcript of the phone conversation:
EU: Hello Israel, how are you today?

IL: Not bad, not bad, and you?

EU: Fine, thanks! I am a bit concerned about the news we get here. A thousand dead, perhaps a third children. It's terrible.

IL: I appreciate your concern, but you have nothing to worry about us. You got to come around here one day. There is this hill where you can stand and watch Gaza. You can see everything, the destruction, the hits, it's amazing. It's like Anselm Kiefer, except it's so much, much bigger. This is not a war. Listen to me: it is art. We are revitalizing Western culture. We had a group of composers here the other day, two from Spain and one from Germany, and they said it gave them so much inspiration. We are your avant-guard, EU. I tell you every time I get a news brief from Gaza I feel so charged.

EU: That's great...look, IL, to be honest, a lot of folks here don't share your enthousiasm. We get a lot of angry calls, letters. People are getting mad at us because we support you. We've just voted to upgrade relations and then...

IL: You know, this isn't the kind of talk friends should say to each other. Did you ever hear me criticize you when you blow up a family in Afghanistan? No. I'm a real friend, EU. I don't go stab you in the back when the going get tough. I stand by you. Now I'm hurt. Just so you know. You really hurt my feelings.

EU: Sorry IL, I didn't mean it like that. But it's not the same thing. You don't have a public opinion like we do. You got all of them singing from the same songbook. We have millions of Muslims...

IL: We have a million Muslims here as well. You can send your cops to us and we'll teach them. Let me tell you, there is one rule with Muslims: You have to be tough. The smallest concession, they smell your fear. We know Muslims; you're too soft with them.

EU: IL, IL, it's not just Muslims. It's everybody. You're upsetting everybody. We begin to get civil disobedience because of you. We could have a revolution in Greece. It's serious, IL. You know I wouldn't say that if it weren't serious. It's a setback to everything we're trying to do here. All I'm saying, we need some consideration from you. That's all.

IL: So what are saying? Are you going to support sanctions? Are you saying that you'll start arresting us when we show up at your airport again? Is that what you're saying? I have no words...

EU: No! No! Calm down! Please! We're together in this. You know we're together. We just need some time. We can't be seen to be too close to each other right now. Maybe we'll have to throw them a bone, make them feel less frustrated. We're going to make a few strongly worded statements. We have too. I'm really sorry.

IL: Well, if this is how you feel. But remember that you owe me a big one, for all the reconstruction business that I'm creating for you in Gaza.

EU: And you know very well everybody here is grateful for that. Especially now. But one more thing, these upgraded ties.

IL: They are very important to us.

EU: Of course, and to us as well. But if we don't slow down the whole thing is going to blow up in our face. We need to let things cool down a bit. If we push now, we risk having these ties bundled with human rights' conditions. That would be a disaster.

IL: yes, that would be a disaster. Fine. Let it lay low. For now. But you swear you're going to push it again the moment you can?

EU: By the love of children I swear.

IL: Ok pal. I am sorrry if I was too harsh sometimes.

EU: Don't mention it. This is what friends are for.


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