The Prime Ministers of Spain and Belgium have been criticised at home and abroad following their visit to Israel after terror organisation Hamas praised what it said was their “brave stance” on the conflict.
Israeli officials were critical of both Spanish leader Pedro Sánchez and Belgian counterpart Alexander De Croo, who went to Israel to urge consensus on a ceasefire to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza.
They accused the visiting leaders of funding Palestinian terrorism and made them watch a video of the atrocities committed by Hamas in its October 7 attack on Israel.
Hamas leaders said they appreciated the “clear and bold stance” of Sánchez and De Croo against Israel.
The terror group also emphasised what they said was Sánchez’s willingness to unilaterally recognise the Palestinian state if the European Union did not take that step.
Israeli defence minister Eli Cohen said Hamas showing gratitude was “shameful and disgraceful”.
He wrote on X: “We will not forget who supports us in these times and who supports a murderous terrorist organisation holding more than 200 hostages.”
In Spain, some also reacted negatively to the Hamas endorsement. “The authors of one of the most cruel, inhuman and massive terrorist attacks in the history of humanity thank Sánchez for his position,” Santiago Abascal, the leader of the Vox party, wrote on X.
“Hamas joins ETA, which also thanked Sánchez, giving him its votes. Sánchez is a total shame for Spain and for Europe,” he said.
In Belgium, Theo Francken of the centre-right N-VA party, part of the ECR Group in the European Parliament, was also critical.
“Our Prime Minister accuses Israel of war crimes but takes no action at home to tackle anti-Semitism,” Francken said on i24News, an Israeli news channel.
He accused De Croo of trying to attract “Arab” voters while telling Israel how it has to behave.
“De Croo and Sánchez make no distinction between Israel, a full-fledged democracy, Hamas, a terrorist organisation and the autocracy of the Palestinian Authority. It is as if they are equally guilty,” he said.
De Croo said Francken was “playing political games”. Both he and Sánchez released the statements they made in Israel, underlining that they did condemn Hamas but wanted Israel to limit civilian casualties.
Francken later issued a statement explaining his comments.
“If your only and absolute measure is ‘no civilian casualties’, then no offensive is possible,” he said.
“Then Hamas can quietly prepare for the next raid and/or rocket shower with its non-negotiable human shield and without caring about any rule or morality.”