JERUSALEM (VINnews) — Israel is currently preventing European Union Foreign policy leader Josep Borrell from entering Israel, after he initiated a controversial debate over Israeli democracy at the EU and spoke out against Israeli policies to Palestinians.
Officials in Israel’s foreign affairs ministry said that due to Borrell’s actions and statements against Israel, he should not deserve to receive a “prize” of visiting Israel under the guise of a conciliatory meeting.
Foreign Minister Eli Cohen had called Borrell and expressed his opposition to the debate. He also criticized Borrell for writing an article comparing Israel’s government to Hamas and the victims of terror attacks to Palestinians killed in IDF actions.
Despite this, Borrell inisted Tuesday that the EU won’t hesitate to express its concern about Israel’s judicial reforms.
“We are a close observer because Israel is a key partner, and our shared values are based on a democratic and open society and the rule of law,” Borrell said.
“We expect this to continue,” he added as he opened a debate on Israeli democracy, which also included concerns with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Cohen said that he “was not very happy about this debate. He was concerned, asking why the European Parliament is interfering in the internal affairs of Israel – once again, blaming me,” Borrell told the Parliament.
He told Cohen, “I am sorry, I am coming to the [European] Parliament and if the [European] Parliament calls me to discuss… something, I have to come,” he added.
“With full respect to the internal political dynamics with Israel, this chamber is fully empowered to discuss… these dynamics and to understand what happens there with respect to our perception of values and interests in the region – nothing is strange with that.
“This cannot be seen as an interference but a way of showing our interest and our appreciation for Israeli democracy,” Borrell said.
Swedish MEP (Member of European Parliament) David Lega of the European People’s Party said he was known as a friend of Israel and yet he was concerned.
“True friends are honest with each other and can also discuss uncomfortable issues,” Lega said.
The draft legislation is worrisome, and many Israelis have said so as well, he said.
“Israel is the only liberal democracy in the Middle East and the only country where people can protest… So I do hope the government of Israel will listen to the concerns of their transatlantic friends,” Lega said.
Some members of Parliament said it was premature to weigh in while the reform was in process and the Israeli public was so active in speaking out. It would be better, those parliamentarians said, to wait until the reform was in place and only then to judge the process.
They noted that many of those voices who were upset about the judicial reform were also those who were quick to attack Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians.
Other MEPs expressed their concern about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the policies of Netanyahu’s government, noting that the judicial reform would make it easier for Israel to annex portions of Judea and Samaria.