European Parliament President Martin Schulz delivered a speech today to the Israeli Knesset that touched upon various topics, including the relationship between Israel and the EU. Schulz, who delivered the speech in German, spoke about the importance of Holocaust remembrance and his own personal perception on the war crimes committed by Germany during World War II.
Commenting on the uproar caused by the Arab Spring over the last few years, Schulz said that “The Arab Spring led to crises in the region that pose new challenges to both the EU and Israel.” He added that Israel and the EU should unite to “deal with the changes.”
Schulz mentioned the daily onslaught the state faces when it comes to international pressure to boycott Israel. The president said the EU would stand by Israel and not boycott the country. “There is no boycott,” he said. “In the European Parliament there is for sure not a majority for a potential boycott.”
However, not all members of Knesset were happy to have Schulz at the Knesset. Likud MK and Deputy Knesset Speaker Moshe Feiglin announced before the speech that he would not attend the address. “I see no value in having the parliament of the Jewish state hear a speech in the language used to force our parents onto trains and into furnaces,” Feiglin posted on Facebook.
What really caused an uproar were two blatant lies Schulz had the audacity to say during his speech. Economic Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home Party) called out Schulz publicly on Facebook for daring to provoke Israel and bolster anti-Israel sentiments. During the speech, all members of the Jewish Home Party walked out in protest.
“Unfortunately, nobody bothered to protest [these statements] or to correct him,” Bennett wrote. “I will not accept the deceptive preaching of morality to the people of Israel and the Israeli Knesset. I certainly won’t accept it in German.”
The first lie Schulz said, according to Bennett, is that “every Palestinian receives a quarter of water of the average Israeli.” Israel does not withhold or ration water of any of its inhabitants and to suggest so is a blatant disregard for Israeli humanitarianism.
The second lie Bennett pointed out Schulz said is that “Israel is besieging Gaza.” Israel is in no way attacking Gaza preemptively. On the contrary, over the last several months, Israel has targeted sites in Gaza as a result of rocket fire into Israeli territory and on innocent Israeli civilians. As Bennett stated on Facebook, “this is after we expelled 8,000 Jews from Gaza in return for them sending rockets at us”
Bennett has demanded an apology from the president of the European Parliament and to redact his statement. He also wants Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to draft an official statement “defending the honor of Israel.” While Bennett acknowledged that Schulz showed great support for Israel and empathy on the Holocaust, “we will not keep quiet in the face of lies.”