BRUSSELS -An Italian centre-right member of the European Parliament decided on Thursday to quit an official delegation due to visit Israel next week because he feels his fellow MEPs are too “anti-Israeli."

Gabriele Albertini, a member of the European Poeple's Party (EPP) who heads the influent European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, explained his decision by the fact that the composition of the delegation was “not balanced," his assistant, Luca Toschi, told EJP.

"Rather than a peacekeeping mission, it looks like an anti-Israeli propaganda mission is being prepared," Albertini, a former mayor of Milan, said.

The delegation of 25 MEPs from the foreign affairs, development and humanitarian aid committees, was due to have talks with members of the Knesset.

However, a plan to visit Gaza was rejected by the Israeli authorities as part of the Israel's policy not to allow foreign officials visitors to enter the Palestinian territory run by Hamas because those visits "give moral support to the Islamist group."

Albertini then stressed to his colleagues that the delegation should "re balance" its itinerary in line with Israeli demands but several members of the delegation felt "offended" by the refusal and voted to ask Egypt to enter Gaza through its crossing point instead. They also decided to snub a scheduled meeting with Jerusalem’s Mayor Nir Barkat.

"The MEPs wrongly thought that Israel was targeting the European Parliament while even French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner was denied the right to entry into Gaza earlier this year," Luca Toschi said.

According to the EUobserver website, Albertini singled out his German centre-right colleague and former European Parliament president Hans-Gert Poettering for criticism.

"The honorable Mr Poettering wanted to convene a press conference to censure the conduct of the Israeli government before we start our journey,” he said.

The German MEP reportedly replied that he "is of the opinion that the Israeli government cannot tell the members of the European Parliament whom they should see or not."

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