Barcelona council symbolically rejects mayor’s decision to un-twin with Tel Aviv

City councilors lack authority to overturn Mayor Ada Colau’s decree suspending ties with Israel

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Screen capture from video of Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau, 2022. (YouTube. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Screen capture from video of Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau, 2022. (YouTube. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Barcelona’s city council on Wednesday symbolically rejected left-wing mayor Ada Colau’s decision to suspend twinning with Tel Aviv.

However, the councilors are powerless to overturn the mayor’s move, as it was approved by decree. The measure is due to be voted on again at a city council session scheduled for February 24.

Pro-Palestinian protesters waved Palestinian flags during the debate in the Catalan capital, chanting “No to apartheid.”

Only the mayor’s party voted to support the move, in a blow to Colau.

Another proposal, to strengthen Barcelona’s ties with Palestinians and human rights groups working against “the occupation,” was also rejected by all factions except Colau’s.

Ahead of the votes, the Israeli embassy in Spain reached out to various figures in Barcelona and Catalonia to oppose them, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

An Israeli diplomatic official on Wednesday expressed satisfaction with the latest development.

“The mayor went against the city council and the will of the residents because of hatred and antisemitism,” they said. “We are very happy with the results of the vote today.”

Illustrative: Demonstrators gather and protest in support of Palestinians in front of the Delegation of the Spanish Government in Barcelona, Spain, May 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

Colau announced last week that Barcelona was suspending institutional relations with Israel, over what she claimed is a systematic violation of Palestinian human rights.

In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Colau explained the largely symbolic move to suspend twinning between the two Mediterranean cities, as demanded in a petition by pro-Palestinian groups from Barcelona.

“I have decided to temporarily suspend relations with the State of Israel and with the official institutions of this State and, in particular, the twinning agreements with the municipality of Tel Aviv, until the Israeli authorities end the systematic violation of human rights of the Palestinian population,” wrote Colau, who has been mayor of the Catalan capital since 2015.

In response, Madrid’s conservative Mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida accused Colau of antisemitism and tweeted that he has written to Tel Aviv’s Mayor Ron Huldai to share “Madrid’s commitment to democracy and freedom.”

Times of Israel staff and AFP contributed to this report.

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