Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly infuriated several European Union diplomats by announcing that he would attend an upcoming summit of the 28-nation bloc.
European leaders were caught by surprise last week when Netanyahu announced he would travel to Brussels on December 11 to give a speech to the monthly meeting of EU foreign ministers, with many accusing the Israeli leader of concocting a diplomatic stunt behind their backs, Israel’s Channel 10 news reported Wednesday.
This would make the first visit by an Israeli prime minister to an EU summit since 1995.
The self-invitation came after Lithuania’s foreign minister invited Netanyahu to attend a breakfast before the meeting without the knowledge or agreement of other top diplomats, the report revealed.
“This is the European Union, not the US Congress, and Netanyahu cannot invite himself,” Times of Israel quoted one EU diplomat as saying in the TV report.
The unnamed diplomat was referring to Netanyahu’s speech to the American legislature against the 2015 Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers.
Netanyahu has been boasting recently about his controversial speech at the US Congress in early 2015, claiming it is what led US President Donald Trump to announce he would withdraw the United States from the multilateral nuclear accord with Iran.
On October 13, Trump refused to certify the nuclear agreement with Iran, and warned he might ultimately terminate it, in defiance of other world powers and undermining a landmark victory of multilateral diplomacy.
Shortly after Trump officially announced that he would not certify the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini stressed that the accord reached between Iran and Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China as well as the US “does not belong to any single country.”
According to the Wednesday report, enraged EU diplomats have warned that Netanyahu would face tough questions during the high-level forum, and promised that Palestinian leaders would receive a similar invite.
“Netanyahu got the meeting he wanted, but the foreign ministers at the summit will present him with tough questions about Israel’s policies” in the Palestinian territories, an EU official said.
According to the report Mogherini, who was herself exasperated by Netanyahu’s move, has since formulated a deal with EU members that will also allow a similar invite in the near future to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and a promise that the Palestinian issue will be at the top of the agenda of the high-level forum.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon described the planned visit as “extremely important” since it would enable Netanyahu to “present Israel’s position with regard to the strategic challenges and issues that we face in the region.” He added that “it is a unique occasion to strengthen and enhance the ties between Israel and the EU.”
Israel’s relations with the European Union have been frosty for many years. The EU has on many occasions blasted Tel Aviv for pushing ahead with its settlement expansion policies in the occupied Palestinian land despite growing international calls to halt the projects altogether.
Earlier this month, Israel refused to grant an entry visa to a group of European lawmakers, including French parliamentarians and mayors, over their support for a global pro-Palestine campaign against the regime’s occupation and land grab policies.
Several of the banned politicians have in the past supported the worldwide anti-Israeli Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which aims to pressure corporations, artists and academic institutions to sever ties with Israel over its unjust practices toward the Palestinians.
The movement initiated in 2005 by over 170 Palestinian organizations that were pushing for “various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law.”
Thousands of volunteers worldwide have joined the BDS to help promote the Palestinian cause of ending Israeli occupation and oppression. Those include international trade unions, NGOs, initiatives, academic and business societies, trade unions, and cultural figures.
The presence and continued expansion of the settlements has created a major obstacle for efforts to establish peace in the Middle East. Palestinians want the occupied West Bank as part of their future independent state, with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.
More than half a million Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East al-Quds