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Israeli FM demands EU backing for hostages’ return, defeat of Hamas

Jerusalem's top diplomat will hold individual meetings with his counterparts from over half-a-dozen countries.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz presents pictures of kidnapped baby Kfir Bibas and abducted women. Credit: MFA.
Foreign Minister Israel Katz presents pictures of kidnapped baby Kfir Bibas and abducted women. Credit: MFA.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz presented photos of Hamas captives baby Kfir Bibas and abducted women to the Council of the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels on Monday.

“I came here to talk with the European Union’s foreign ministers about two key issues—to return all the abductees and to receive the backing and support of the European Union for the elimination and dismantling of the terrorist organization Hamas to restore security to the citizens of the State of Israel,” Katz said.

The council brings together the top diplomats of all 27 E.U. member states. Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt also attended the meeting, as did representatives of the Palestinian Authority and the Arab League.

A report in The Guardian initially cited sources at the meeting as claiming Katz suggested that Palestinians from Gaza could be relocated to an artificial island in the Mediterranean Sea, drawing the ire of P.A. officials and sparking widespread uproar on Arab social media.

“The land of Palestine is ours and we will remain there,” Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told reporters in Brussels, adding that “those who had the idea” of creating an artificial island may go live on it if they wish, according to UAE news outlet The National.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry subsequently issued a statement clarifying that Katz “never said such a thing, and there is no such plan.” Katz did present to the E.U. ministers a proposal to build a port on an artificial island in order to inspect incoming goods, a plan that Israeli politicians from across the political spectrum have pushed for years.

The Guardian‘s claim was likewise contradicted by The New York Times, local media and public statements from officials that were present during the presentation.

Israel’s top diplomat will hold individual meetings with his counterparts from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark France and Greece.

“We are continuing a diplomatic campaign to support the heroic IDF soldiers and defeat Hamas,” said Katz, according to a statement released ahead of the meetings. “I will work to mobilize the E.U. to exert pressure to secure the return of the hostages, take action against Hamas and advance economic projects that will transform the region and counter Iran.”

He said he would present strategic plans and projects to promote regional stability, including the “Tracks for Regional Peace” project linking Haifa to the Saudi Gulf port of Damman, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Katz will also meet with Josep Borrell, the E.U.’s high representative for foreign affairs, and other officials.

Borrell, who is known for his anti-Israel sentiment, criticized Jerusalem’s conduct of the war to the media on Sunday, saying Israel “is seeding the hate for generations.

“To say that the goal is to destroy Hamas is something one-sided because it means that Israel will decide when it considers that [Hamas] has become sufficiently weak. It can’t go on like this,” the Catalan diplomat said.

He called for a two-state solution. “We have to stop talking about the peace process and start talking about the two-state solution process,” he said.

Borrell will reportedly unveil his 10-point plan for the establishment of a Palestinian state in Gaza, Judea and Samaria, the Brussels-based Euractiv news service reported on Saturday.

Earlier this month, Borrell demanded that the international community impose a “solution” to the conflict between Israel and Palestinian terrorists, saying that “what we have learned over the last 30 years, and what we are learning now with the tragedy experienced in Gaza, is that the solution must be imposed from outside.”

Members of the 27-nation bloc have been deeply divided on the war against Hamas, and the foreign ministers gathering in Brussels on Monday are unlikely to unanimously support Borrell’s proposal.

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