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EU cancels Europe Day event over Ben-Gvir’s participation

“We do not want to offer a platform to someone whose views contradict the values the European Union stands for,” the E.U. Embassy to Israel said.

Otzma Yehudit Party leader Itamar Ben-Gvir attends a debate at the Knesset, Nov. 22, 2022. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.
Otzma Yehudit Party leader Itamar Ben-Gvir attends a debate at the Knesset, Nov. 22, 2022. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.

The European Union has nixed a diplomatic reception set for Tuesday in Tel Aviv over the scheduled attendance of Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.

At a meeting of ambassadors to Israel from the bloc’s member states on Monday, all but Poland and Hungary were on board with canceling the event rather than hearing from the minister, who volunteered to represent the government in the absence of Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, who will be in India.

“The E.U. Delegation to Israel is looking forward to celebrating Europe Day on May 9, as it does every year,” the statement from the E.U. Embassy to Israel read.

“Regrettably, this year we have decided to cancel the diplomatic reception, as we do not want to offer a platform to someone whose views contradict the values the European Union stands for,” it continued. “However, the Europe Day cultural event for the Israeli public will be maintained to celebrate with our friends and partners in Israel the strong and constructive bilateral relationship.”

The annual event celebrates the May 9, 1950, Schuman Declaration that led to the creation of the E.U.’s precursor the European Coal and Steel Community.

A leading figure in the right-wing and religious coalition cobbled together by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Otzma Yehudit party chief was to address at the canceled event joint efforts with the bloc to combat terrorism and jihadism, among other issues, including telling them that it is “appropriate that the countries not finance projects against IDF soldiers and Israeli residents,” according to a statement from his office.

“It is a shame that the European Union, which claims to represent the values of democracy and multiculturalism, is undiplomatically suppressing expression,” Ben-Gvir said in response to Monday’s announcement.

“It is an honor and a privilege for me to represent the Israeli government, the heroic IDF soldiers and the people of Israel in every forum,” the minister continued. “Friends know how to voice criticism and true friends also know how to take it.”

The cancellation of the Europe Day event over Ben-Gvir’s participation comes nearly one week after Cohen appeared to patch up relations with the E.U. during a meeting in Brussels with his E.U. counterpart Josep Borrell.

Following the meeting, Cohen said that “Israel is opening a new page in its relations with the E.U.”

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