Eight Italian winemakers visit a Samaria winery 370.
(photo credit: Meir Berechya )
The attendance by members of the European Union’s parliamentary delegation at the Ramallah celebration in honor of the released Palestinian prisoners last month was “unacceptable” and undermined the EU’s credibility as an honest broker, Italian politician Fiorello Provera said on Wednesday before leaving Israel after a four-day visit.
“It’s disgraceful behavior,” said Provera, who added that he was ashamed for the action of those delegates.
“These people [released Palestinian prisoners] are not freedom fighters. They are no heroes. They are assassins. They killed ordinary people,” Provera said.
“Each of the 26 men has their own story of assassination to tell. Many of their victims were ordinary Israelis who were trying to make a living. Many of them were old and caught defenseless. Although these men were released as a goodwill gesture, they are still criminals,” Provera said in a statement.
“The risk is that a truly goodwill gesture meant to facilitate the peace process becomes the occasion for someone to glorify common criminals,” he said.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post
, Provera admitted that his support for Israel makes him a rare breed among the EU’s 766-member body, known for often taking a more hostile stance toward Israel and a more positive one toward the Palestinians.
Earlier this year the European Parliament passed a resolution in support of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails that, among others things, called for a fact-finding mission to assess the situation.
But Provera, who is the vice chairman of the EP Committee on Foreign Affairs, has taken a markedly different stand than his colleagues on this issue and others with regard to Israel.
“I am one of the few friends of Israel in the parliament,” he said and added that “this is something that has to change.”
Maintaining a good relationship with Israel is important for Europe and for Italy, said Provera, because it excels in science and technology.
There are also strong historical, religious and cultural ties between them, Provera said.
“Jewish history is the basis of our civilization. The Jewish people are part of my country’s story,” he said.
As the European Union is taking steps to label West Bank settlement products, Provera this week led a mission of eight winemakers who visited wineries in Samaria as well as the Golan and the Galilee.
It is one of a number of trips he has made to Samaria in the last few years, where he has focused in particular on strengthening business ties between Italian and Israeli wineries in that region of the West Bank.
Provera said he opposed steps by the EU to issue legal guidelines against West Bank settlements because he believes such steps would be economically harmful to both Israelis and Palestinians.
“I saw with my own eyes the Barkan Industrial Park [in Samaria] where Israelis and Palestinians work side by side,” Provera said.
He added that coexistence was an important ingredient for a peaceful future.
While Provera supports a two-state solution, he is loath to issue an opinion on what those borders should be. Nor does he believe that the solution should include the demolition of West Bank settlements.
“It’s complicated,” he admitted.
“But it is not imaginable to wipe away all these people,” Provera said.
He came to Israel and to Samaria at the invitation of the Samaria Regional Council’s liaison office, with which he developed a close relationship over the past few years.
But while in Israel he also met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud). Iran was among the topics they discussed, said Provera, who added that he supports Israel’s position that sanctions should continue until Tehran stops its enrichment of uranium and dismantles its nuclear weapons program.
“I think Israel has the right to be very careful and prudent. Sanctions should not be eased until there is an absolute guarantee that the existence of Israel is not threatened,” he said.