European Parliament President Martin Schulz must apologize for lying in the Knesset, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said Wednesday.
Bennett and the entire Bayit Yehudi faction walked out in the middle of Schulz's speech, with several MKs yelling "Palestinians are liars" and "shame."
"When he said Palestinians get 17 liters of water for every 70 Israelis get, it was a total lie. It's preposterous," Bennett told The Jerusalem Post after the Bayit Yehudi walk-out. "All the ministers were perplexed. I stayed quiet at first, but then he criticized the Israeli blockade on Gaza and said it caused pain to the Gazans."
"Did he forget that we expelled 8,000 Jews from Gaza? This week I worked on helping the evacuees. Did he forget that [Gazans] shoot thousands of missiles at us? And then he criticizes us about the very place we vacated?" Bennett asked.
The minister demanded that Schulz "take back his lies," and called for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to make the same demand.
"Our national honor as the State of Israel isn't mine or the ministers'. It belongs to all of the people of Israel," he stated. "I won't sit in the Knesset and hear a European, certainnly not a German, saying such things."
The Bayit Yehudi leader said that when he noticed no one else was protesting, he instructed his faction to walk out quietly, though some only listened to the first part.
According to Bennett, the Bayit Yehudi were "the only ones who stood up for our national honor."
"I thought Schulz would express the EU's regular criticism about Israel in the West Bank. He started out speaking nicely about the Holocaust, he showed a lot of empathy. He spoke about the importance of peace, and I get it, he's not in the Bayit Yehudi," Bennett recounted. "We can accept criticism, but we cannot live with lies."
The Bayit Yehudi leader pointed out that Schulz quoted Edmund Burke as saying "the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."
"He could criticize us, even sharply, but to tell lies and expect me to be quiet? It won't happen," Bennett stated.
The exact statement Schulz made, which caused the uproar, was: "A young Palestinian asked me why Israelis can use 70 liters of water and Palestinians only 17. I didn't check the data. I'm asking you if it's right."
In response to Schulz’s allegations, Water Authority spokesman Uri Schor simply said, “The figures are wrong.”
According to Water Authority data, Palestinians received 100,000 liters of water per person per year in 2006, while Israelis receive 170,000 liters of water per person per year the same year. Although updated concrete figures are not available for today, Schor said that the gap has narrowed even further, with Palestinians receiving more than 110,000 liters of water per person per year, and Israelis receiving less than they did in 2006.
Looking at Schulz’s figures of 17 liters per Palestinian person for every 70 liters per Israeli person, his data would imply that Israelis are each receiving about 4.12 times more water than are Palestinians. An examination of the Water Authority’s data, however, indicates that Israelis are each receiving about 1.7 times more water than are Palestinians, a number that has decreased further today, according to the authority.
As for the military blockade on Gaza, Schulz said: "We all know the blockade is a reaction to attacks on your civilian population, but it led to a difficult situation. The results of the blockade are exploited by extremists, so perhaps it is counterproductive to security."
Still, Schulz took the Bayit Yehudi's interruptions with good humor, saying to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein that the Knesset is quiet compared to the European Parliament and that he would have been disappointed if there wasn't a reaction to his speech.
Immediately after Schulz departed, Culture Minister Limor Livnat took the stand to say his words were "a vulgar lie."
"Schulz told lies in German, and it's unfortunate someone can speak German in this house, but it is our responsibility to stand up against it," Pensioners' Affairs Minister Uri Orbach said. "The generation of Schulz's parents and the generation of the Arab MKs' parents collaborated to destroy the Jews."
"I want to remind the members of the Bayit Yehudi that, despite their efforts, we still live in a democratic country where we can and should hear criticism in any language. Using the Holocaust to not deal with international criticism is ridiculous," MK Zehava Gal-On said.
Labor MK Merav Michaeli pointed out that while the Bayit Yehudi is opposed to hearing criticism in German, they're happy for the IDF to get submarines from Germany.
In his speech, Schulz said he understands the sensitivity of allowing him to speak in the Knesset in German, adding that his generation has the responsibility to make sure the atrocities perpetrated by his country to the Jewish people will never happen again.
Schulz also spoke out against anti-Semitism in Europe, the central theme of Edelstein's speech, which preceded the European Parliament President's address.
"The European Union will always stand by the State of Israel. Israel is a hope that came true for the Jewish people to live freely in its land. The dream became reality through courageous people," Schulz stated. "Israeli society is built on the values of freedom and democracy, which tie it to Europe. Israel is a strong democracy with a modern economy. You made the desert bloom and Israeli research leads in many areas."
In addition, Schulz said Iran cannot be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons, but the way to prevent that form happening is via diplomacy.
The European Parliament President called for "painful concessions" to make peace, saying "a new window of hope is open" and commending US Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts.
Schulz called for a halt to settlement construction, calling them an obstacle to a solution.
As for European attempts to boycott Israel, Schulz said: "There is no boycott and no boycott is under consideration. I believe we need to cooperate."
Similarly, on Tuesday night, upon receiving an honorary doctorate from Hebrew University, Schulz said: “Boycott is a very tough word. To boycott means to completely block cooperation and trade between countries. We are not speaking about such a boycott."
As he answered questions from reporters on the possibility of a European boycott of Israel, he noted that this was the “thirteenth time today that I am asked” about this issue.
He acknowledged that there is a debate in Europe about issuing consumer guidelines to inform consumers about products that are produced in West Bank settlements.
But, he said, “There is no concrete position of the European Union or its institutions for a boycott of Israel or Israeli products.”
“My personal view is that a boycott is not a solution for anything,” Schulz said.
“And therefore, as president of the European parliament I was strongly in favor, for example, of upgrading the scientific cooperation between the European Union and Israel,” Schulz said.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.
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