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European Parliament debates ‘deterioration of democracy’ in Israel

“This cannot be seen as an interference, but [as] a way of showing our interest and our appreciation for Israeli democracy,” says E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

The European Parliament. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
The European Parliament. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The European Parliament held a debate on Tuesday about the “deteriorating” situation in Israel, over the objections of Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen.

The hour-long session at the debating chamber in Strasbourg, France, was titled, “Deterioration of democracy in Israel and consequences on the occupied territories” and featured harsh criticism of the Jewish state from some MEPs who took to the podium.

The parliamentarians discussed the Israeli government’s judicial reform push as well as violence in Judea and Samaria.

“This cannot be seen as an interference, but [as] a way of showing our interest and our appreciation for Israeli democracy,” said High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell as he opened the session, in a reference to Israeli accusations that the European Union is meddling in its internal affairs.

Borrell noted that Cohen “was not very happy about this debate,” but said he had told the minister that it would take place regardless.

“This parliament is free to discuss everything they consider important,” Borrell continued. “And that is what I tried to explain to the Israeli minister [in a] very friendly [way]: ‘Look, it is normal that the parliamentarians are concerned for the growing spiral of violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, and the need for all sides to de-escalate the situation.’”

Israel has accused the European Union of promoting Palestinian interests at the expense of Israeli rights in Judea and Samaria.

During a meeting on Monday in Jerusalem with Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, Cohen asked the minister to relay his appeal to the European Union to stop meddling in Israeli affairs.

“In light of the special relationship between Israel and Italy, I asked my friend Foreign Minister Tajani to act to prevent European intervention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an activity which often encourages incitement and terrorism, as well as to avoid European attempts to influence internal Israeli politics,” said Cohen, according to a foreign ministry statement.

Cohen blasted Borrell on Tuesday for equating Palestinian terror attacks with operations undertaken by the Israel Defense Forces.

“There is no place for comparisons and creating a balance between Israeli terror victims and Palestinian terrorists supported by the Palestinian Authority,” Cohen told Borrell, according to a statement released by the Foreign Ministry.

Borrell wrote in an article last week on the commentary site Project Syndicate that “violence on the part of Israeli settlers in the West Bank is increasingly threatening Palestinian lives and livelihoods—almost always with impunity.”

He added: “Moreover, Israeli military operations frequently cause civilian Palestinian deaths, often without effective accountability; illegal settlements are expanding on occupied land; and the delicate status quo concerning holy sites is eroding.”

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