September 26, 2023


Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with European Parliament President Roberta Metsola on Tuesday (24 May). This is Metsola’s first official visit outside Europe since her election as head of the EU assembly in Janunary. According to Bennett’s office, the two exchanged views regarding the implications of the war in Ukraine and the need to fight incitement, writes Yossi Lempkowicz.

They also emphasized the importance of closer cooperation between Israel and the European Union (EU) in several areas, especially food security and energy. “Our relations have seen ups and downs in the past but from here on we will work together only on ups. The European Union and Israel have the potential for a marvelous friendship,” declared Bennett.

Knesset member Shirly Pinto, Israel’s first deaf parliamentarian, told Metsola about the steps the government is taking to integrate people with disabilities into society, including legislation approved on Sunday legislation allocating 2 billion shekels ($595 million) for helping integrate the disabled into the wider community. Pinto also advocated for increased cooperation between Israel and the European Union on this issue. The President of the European Parliament began her trip to Israel on Sunday with a visit to Tel Aviv University and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem.

After her visit to the university, Metsola tweeted that she had been impressed by “the engagement, the questions and ideas put forward by students.” During her tour of Yad Vashem, Metsola visited the “Flashes of Memory” exhibit and took part in a memorial ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance, as well as the Children’s Memorial. Metsola also addressed the Kknesset, Israel’s parliament, during a special session. “Let me be clear: Europe will always back Israel’s right to exist,” she said to applause. Referencing her trip earlier Monday to Yad Vashem, Metsola said: “It pains me to say that, today we are seeing antisemitism on the rise. We know that this is a warning sign for humanity. And it matters to all of us.

“I will not be ambiguous: to be antisemitic is to be anti-European. And everyday we still witness attacks on Jews, on synagogues.”

The European Parliament, she pledged, “is committed to breaking the cycle” and “combating antisemitism”. Addressing the prospect of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, Metsola affirmed the European Parliament’s continued support of “a two-state solution — with the secure State of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous, viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security”.

“Progress is possible,” she insisted, citing the opening of relations between Israel and several Arab countries in 2020. “The Abraham Accords may well have seemed inconceivable only a short while ago, but they proved that history does not always have to repeated.”

Metsola, who is a politician from Malta and a member of the European People’s Party (EPP), the largest in the EU assembly, started her visit in Israel with a controversy when she criticized a decision by Israel to deny entry to European Parliament Manu Pineda, a Spanish Communist politician and chairman of the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with Palestine, for his anti-Israel activities including calls for bocycott of Israel and meeting swith senior members of terrorist groups.


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