European Parliament Members visiting the Knesset, October 2017.
(photo credit: YITZHAK HARARI)
Ongoing global antisemitism, Iranian operations in the region, Hezbollah, the Greater Jerusalem bill and more were all discussed between delegates of the European Parliament and Knesset members from across the political spectrum on Monday.
The discussions were held as part of a visit by a delegation of eight MEPs currently in Israel, headed by MEP Fulvio Martusciello of the Christian Democratic European People’s Party, a center- right group in the European Parliament.
Among the key issues during the talks were those raised by Yesh Atid MK and former Shin Bet chief Yaakov Peri regarding hostile Iranian activity in the region, close to Israel’s borders, as well as the status of Hezbollah as perceived by the EU.
“The time has come for the European Union to recognize all branches of Hezbollah as a terror organization and not just its military [branch],” Peri told the MEPs.
The EU currently only lists Hezbollah’s paramilitary guerrilla militia as a terrorist group and not the entire organization, which includes its political wing that has 14 seats in the Lebanese Parliament and two ministers in the government.
Peri also underlined the growing Iranian presence in Syria close Israel’s border, noting that Israel has made numerous requests to the international community – which have gone unanswered – to clamp down on Tehran’s activities in the region.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said Israel-EU relations were extremely important. He observed that security cooperation had increased in recent years, following a spate of terrorist attacks in Europe similar to those experienced in Israel.
Edelstein also noted that he has been criticized for various pieces of legislation proposed by MKs, which have been deemed detrimental or harmful to peace and coexistence, but which would never be passed. Some have not even be submitted to the Knesset.
Edelstein referenced the Greater Jerusalem bill that was scheduled for a vote in the Knesset on Sunday, which would annex 19 West Bank settlements to the city of Jerusalem.
He said the bill had not yet been passed to the Knesset, and added that it would not create any substantial changes to the status of the capital city.
In the same series of discussions, United Torah Judaism MK Yisrael Eichler upbraided the EU for interfering in Israel’s internal affairs.
Eichler pointed out that the EU and its member countries have objected to Russian interference in internal political affairs in Europe, saying the EU conducted similar activities in Israel. He referenced, in particular, financial support of the EU to what he termed leftist, anti-religious organizations in Israel.
For their part, the MEPs expressed a friendly attitude to the Jewish state.
MEP Miltiadis Kyrkos of Greece said the delegation “came as friend” of Israel and expressed appreciation specifically on behalf of Greece and Cyrpus for energy cooperation between the countries.
MEP Iveta Grigule-Peterse of Latvia said that as someone from a country with unfriendly neighbors, a reference to Russia, she was impressed to see how such a small country can survive in such an environment.
Martusciello concluded his comments by saying time was “running out” and that public officials had an obligation to use all diplomatic tools at their disposal in the battle for democracy and peace.
“We are obligated to achieve this for our citizens,” said Martusciello.