A delegation of some 40 parliamentarians and mayors from around Europe condemned last week’s kidnapping of three yeshiva students by Hamas, during a solidarity visit Monday to the family of Naftali Fraenkel, one of the captives. The group told the family at their Nof Ayalon home that they will pray for the missing boys.
“The kidnapping shows more than anything else Hamas’s intentions,” MP Meir Habib, the head of the delegation, said. “It is important that this message is relayed in France, too: Peace cannot be made with terrorists.”
Unfortunately, one of the delegation members said, French people are more interested in the World Cup than the kidnapping at the moment. Racheli Fraenkel, Naftali’s mother, responded that her son was also looking forward to seeing the World Cup, like any other normal boy his age.
After the visit, Habib said that meeting the family face-to-face makes it impossible not to care about the issue and that the MPs took the Fraenkel’s distress to heart and vowed to pass their message on to the world.
According to Habib, this is the largest official delegation from France ever. The purpose of the trip is to show the realities of Israeli life. The group, which includes MPs and mayors, is also scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, with whom Habib is close, president-elect Reuven Rivlin, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, and opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor).
On Sunday, more than 20 European parliamentarians signed a declaration staunchly condemning the kidnapping during an Israel Allies Foundation gala dinner in Budapest.
“We condemn in the strongest terms the recent kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers and demand the Palestinian Authority to actively assist in securing their safe return,” the declaration read.
The dinner was part of a threeday conference hosted by the Israel Allies Foundation, a bipartisan organization dedicated to fostering pro-Israel advocacy worldwide based on Judeo-Christian values.
“Hamas is a terrorist organization that wants to wipe Israel off the map. Let us not be naïve,” Joel Vooderwind, a Dutch parliamentarian, and member of the Christian Union Party said of the organization behind the kidnappings.
As a result, Vooderwind believes his country should not have any contact with the PA until it recognizes Israel and ceases violent attacks against the country.
“As a small country, Latvia tends to not take a stand and it’s more convenient for us to stay silent,” Inga Bite, of her country’s Region’s Alliance Party said. She added that she hopes the declaration would help propel pro-Israel advocacy in her country and she acknowledged that it is a “small step in the right direction.”
MKs Dov Lipman (Yesh Atid), Gila Gamliel (Likud), and Yakov Margi (Shas) also participated in the drafting of the resolution.
“We sat with them and wanted them to form a cohesive, unified agreement. I think the substance of the declaration speaks for itself.
I also wish this kind of broad, widespread support, and dialogue could be spread throughout Europe,” said Gamliel (Likud).
“I’m here, but I really am there,” Yesh Atid’s Lipman said when the declaration was signed. Last week’s event struck a personal chord with Lipman and his family, whose son knows one of the abducted students.
On Sunday afternoon, the parliamentarians attended Faith Church in Budapest, where some 12,000 evangelical Christians prayed for the three students in a ceremony Lipman called “deeply moving.”
In addition to condemning the kidnappings, the declaration also advocated a unified Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, decried the disturbing wave of anti-Semitism in Europe, and the persecution of Christians across the Middle East.
“As members of parliaments from European countries, we condemn the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, which merely maligns and marginalizes the only democracy in the Middle East – the State of Israel,” the statement said.
Lamenting the growing anti-Semitism in his country, Voordewind blasted the BDS campaign for being largely responsible for the anti-Israel sentiment in his country.
As a response to BDS, Voordewind’s party launched a legislative initiative to encourage European companies to invest in Israel, which passed two weeks ago.
Also Sunday, the US, Canada, Netherlands, and Norway condemned the kidnapping.
Reuters contributed to this report.