On their diplomatic visit to the Middle East, the political leaders of Spain and Belgium were given a cool, even hostile reception by Israel.
Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and his Belgian counterpart Alexander De Croo, the current and upcoming holders of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, arrived in Israel on November 23 to assess the Gaza situation and the Israel-Hamas war.
They urged consensus on a ceasefire to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza.
De Croo later told reporters they had a “very frank” discussion with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli President Isaac Herzog.
פגשתי את ראש ממשלת ספרד סנצ'ס וראש ממשלת בלגיה דה-קרו. הנה מה שהיה לי חשוב לומר להם >> pic.twitter.com/Wb4Hdhblo0
— Benjamin Netanyahu – בנימין נתניהו (@netanyahu) November 24, 2023
According to Belgian news outlet Business AM, that seems something of an understatement. The news outlet claims De Croo and Sánchez were actually on the end of a scathing reprimand.
Herzog allegedly taunted the two European leaders, claiming: “You, the Europeans, are the ones who funded Hamas’ tunnels. Your EU aid to Gaza has all fallen into the hands of terrorists.”
In European circles, many lay blame for the hard-line policies from Tel Aviv on what they see as the “far-right” Government of Netanyahu, though Herzog, a Socialist, has the same view on the war with Hamas as Netanyahu.
The Israeli Government was also aware that the Belgian Parliament had refused to show a 44-minute video of the Hamas atrocities to its members; it was only viewed later by a limited group of MPs on a voluntary basis.
With Sánchez heading one of the most pro-Palestinian governments in Europe and the Belgian Parliament’s decision regarding the film of the atrocity, Netanyahu decided to show both men the gruesome video footage, reportedly bringing some of their entourage to tears.
“These are monsters. Are these even people? Can you call these people?” the Israeli Prime Minister asked, making it clear his country was prepared to do everything in its power to defend its people against Hamas.
Both Sánchez and De Croo were later taken to a kibbutz that was attacked in the Hamas assaults of October 7 and shown the results of the brutal violence first-hand.
Despite that and the video, Sánchez and De Croo did push on in pleading for a softer approach from the Israelis.
“We must do everything to prevent killing of innocent civilians on both sides and to implement international humanitarian law,” De Croo said.
Sánchez, in what was his first visit to Israel, stated: “Israel has the right to defend itself. However, this right cannot encompass the deaths of innocent civilians, including thousands of children, in Gaza.”
The Spanish Prime Minister urged the start of diplomatic efforts to convene an international peace conference to try to establish a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
The two European leaders were also due to meet separately with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
We’re at a crossroads.
Let us end the cycles of terrorism and violence.
My plea for a sustainable solution and respect for humanitarian law to Prime Minister Netanyahu. pic.twitter.com/tUKAlN8cjC
— Alexander De Croo 🇧🇪🇪🇺 (@alexanderdecroo) November 23, 2023