STRASBOURG (EJP) – Two more European Parliament members withdrew their participation Thursday in a controversial European Parliament delegation visit to the Middle East because they view the program as being “too one-sided.” 

The delegation of 25 parliamentarians from the foreign affairs, development and humanitarian aid committees, is due to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories next week.

In their statement, Italian Fiorello Provera, vice-chairman of the foreign affairs committee and Dutch Bastiaan Belder, chairman of the European Parliament delegation with Israel said: “We think that the delegation’s program is too one-sided, and for this reason it is extremely unhelpful to the cause we all wish to promote, at a crucial moment, when the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority are restarting indirect talks.”

“Recent controversy on the nature of next week’s official delegation of the European Parliament to Israel and the Palestinian territories led us to conclude, regrettably, that we are left with no other choice but to withdraw our participation from this mission.”

They said their presence “could lend legitimacy to a mission that stands contrary to what we were elected for – to promote dialogue, reconciliation and to seek a better understanding of the complexities and the difficult challenges that the parties face on the road to peace.

“Regarding the planned visit of the delegation to Gaza through Egypt, we share the concerns of those who see these political visits as a legitimization of Hamas, an organization included in the EU terrorist list,” they added.

They called on the Foreign Affairs Committee to start the planning of a new parliamentary mission to Israel and the Palestinian territories to assess the political situation in the region, “taking into account all points of views of all parties involved, in order to better understand the situation on the ground.”

Earlier this week, another MEP, Italian center-right Gabriele Albertini, also announced his decision to quit the delegation because he felt his fellow MEPs are too much “anti-Israeli.”

Albertini, who heads the influential European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, explained his decision by the fact that the composition of 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.

One Israeli official said it was clear from the start that the delegation was coming with a pro-Palestinian agenda and was looking for anti-Israeli headlines.

“That is the reason why they said they wanted to go from Israel into Gaza, even though we have said a thousand times that we will not permit that, except for special circumstances,” the official said. “The visit that they organized is a confrontational one.”

The official, asked about the parliamentarians who dropped out of the delegation because of its bias, said it was sad that a delegation like this could not come to Israel without an agenda “set by extremists.”

Herb Keinon contributed to this report.

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger