Israel Blocks EU’s Foreign Minister From Visiting Over Comments on Settlements

The move comes after European Union foreign minister Josep Borrell’s stinging comments leveled at Israel during a session of the European Parliament on Tuesday, where he warned against expanding Israeli settlements, frequent raids in the West Bank and forced evictions in Jerusalem

Israel’s Foreign Ministry is trying to prevent the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell from visiting Israel, after criticism he leveled at Israel on Tuesday over the government’s planned judicial overhaul.

Borrell had expressed interest in visiting Israel and the Palestinian Authority recently, but Israel has signaled that they will not cooperate with the move. “There’s no reason to reward him [Borrell] for his conduct,” an official in the foreign ministry said. In an article he published last week, Borrell did not hold back his criticism of Israel, writing, ‘Being honest means acknowledging that extremism is rising on both sides. Indiscriminate attacks and violence are taking many Israeli lives. Violence on the part of Israeli settlers in the West Bank is increasingly threatening Palestinian lives and livelihoods – almost always with impunity.’

‘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,’ he said. ‘While Israelis can rely on a strong state and army, Palestinians have no such recourse. This vast inequality in the ability to control one’s destiny is visible at every roadside checkpoint. All these facts are obstacles to peace.’

On Tuesday Borrell addressed the European Parliament, which had summoned a special session on “the deterioration of democracy in Israel and the consequences for the occupied territories” in light of the Israeli far-right government’s planned judicial overhaul.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen criticized earlier on Tuesday the EU Parliament’s plans to hold the discussion. “There’s no place for any comparisons between Israeli terror victims and Palestinian terrorists supported by the Palestinian Authority,” Cohen said, adding that “the EU must stop intervening in Israel’s domestic politics.”

In his address, Borrell said that the EU would not interfere in internal Israeli politics, but emphasized that ‘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.’

‘I spoke this morning on the phone with Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, who was not very happy about this debate. He was concerned and asking why the European Parliament is interfering in internal affairs of Israel – once again, blaming me,’ he said. ‘I am sorry, I am coming to the [European] Parliament and if the [European] Parliament calls me to discuss something, I have to come.’