Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Bulgarian prime minister Boyko Borisov in Jerusalem on Wednesday, June 13, 2018.
(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
Bulgaria is one of the countries Israel looks to for help inside the European Union, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday before a meeting with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov.
“I want to thank you for your consistent defense of Israel in international forums, including in the EU,” Netanyahu said at a photo opportunity with Borrissov.
“It’s time that all of Europe’s leaders understood that Israel is the one that defends the interests – our common interests – in the Middle East, both in terms of security and in many, many other ways.”
Bulgaria is one of the countries that Israel looks to from time to time to soften statements or resolutions coming out of Brussels regarding Israel and the Palestinians.
It is also one of the EU countries – along with the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Lithuania, Latvia, Cyprus and Greece – that often break with other EU countries in votes on Israel in international bodies, abstaining rather than voting against it.
One glaring exception, however – and one that Netanyahu did not mention in his statement – was Bulgaria’s vote in the UN General Assembly in December condemning the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem.
Bulgaria was one of 22 EU countries that voted for that resolution, opposed to only six who abstained.
Borissov arrived on Tuesday for a two-day visit that will also take him to the Palestinian Authority. Unlike Austrian President Sebastian Kurz, Borissov’s scheduled visit to the Old City did not include a stop at the Western Wall.
Borissov’s visit comes just three months after Bulgarian President Rumen Radev
, a sign of the importance Sofia attributes to ties with Israel.
Netanyahu praised the “wonderful” friendship between the two countries, and said that Israel will never forget the Bulgarian citizens who laid themselves down on the train tracks during World War II to prevent the deportation of Bulgaria’s Jews from Sofia.
Netanyahu said that Israel and Bulgaria share a joint struggle against radical Islam and the terror that it espouses, which claimed both Israel and Bulgarian lives – a reference to the 2012 attack at Burgas where five Israelis and a Bulgarian bus driver were killed in a bus attack.
Borissov, in an address Tuesday evening to the American Jewish Committee Global Forum, referenced the Jerusalem issue, saying that Bulgaria is “convinced that the Jewish people’s relation to Jerusalem is indisputable,” and that his country is “not indifferent to the wish of the Jewish population of Israel and of world Jewry and to the right of Israel, being a sovereign state, to decide which city will be its capital and to insist that it be internationally recognized.”
At the same time, however, he made clear Bulgaria would not follow the lead of US, Guatemala and Paraguay and move its embassy to Jerusalem.
“The status of Jerusalem as the sacred site of the three monotheistic religions should be agreed [upon] in the course of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations that will lead to an accord on the final status of the Palestinian territories,” he said.
Borissov said during his speech that Israel plays an important role in defending Europe. “Had it not been for Israel, Europe and European civilization would have been in bigger jeopardy in the face of rising radicalism and religious fundamentalism in the Middle East.”