The meeting was intended to counter some of the claims contained in the written report to be presented to the Council next week.

Communicated by the Deputy Foreign Minister’s Bureau

Today, 20 January 2010, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon met with MP Piero Fassino, Rapporteur for Middle East issues at the Council of Europe.

This meeting was intended to balance the report that will be presented to the Council of Europe next week and to ensure that an accurate picture is presented.

On the issue of negotiations with the Palestinians, which is mentioned in the report, the Deputy Foreign Minister emphasized that the sole reason negotiations have not resumed is the refusal of the Palestinians to meet. Ayalon also stressed that Prime Minister Netanyahu in his Bar-Ilan speech stipulated Israel’s readiness to meet with the Palestinians with no pre-conditions.

Regarding the settlement freeze, the report claims that it does not go far enough because Jerusalem is not involved.  Ayalon stressed that there is no debate regarding Jerusalem as it is the capital of Israel and will remain so.

Ayalon also refuted the claim made in the report that Israel used chemical weapons during Operation Cast Lead. The Deputy Foreign Minister made clear that Israel abides by the accepted norms set by NATO.

Next Tuesday, 26 January, Fassino’s report will be officially presented to the Council of Europe in the presence of Ayalon and Palestinian Minister of Housing Mohammed Ashtia. At that time, Ayalon will also address the session.