Economy Minister Naftali Bennett took European Union ambassadors and envoys to task on Monday, accusing their countries of using economic pressure to try to make Israel “commit suicide” instead of supporting the country in its struggle against a “river of terror.”
Bennett addressed the diplomats, representing 26 out of the 28 European Union countries, at a closed-door meeting in Jerusalem’s King David Hotel. An audio recording of some of his comments was leaked to Army Radio and published Tuesday.
“To single out Israel, to twist our arms economically, in the hopes that we’ll commit suicide because financially we’ll get hit if we don’t — it’s immoral from my perspective,” Bennett was heard saying in the recording. “Instead of understanding… we’re the big dam in this big river of terror.”
Among those present were the ambassadors of Britain, Sweden, and Belgium, as well as representatives from the French embassy.
Bennett leads the right-wing Jewish Home party, which strongly advocates continued development of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and annexation of part of the territory, claimed by the Palestinians for a future state.
He appealed against EU policies that aim to limit and hamper trade with settlement-based businesses and institutes.
The EU has laid down guidelines against funding for scientific and research institutes that are linked in settlements, and has been weighing a policy of labeling products manufactured in settlements.
Bennett suggested that instead of sanctioning Israel, Europe should support the Jewish state in its fight against terror.
“Help us, back us,” he implored.
According to the report, Bennett’s office declined to comment on his message to the representatives and noted only that “things that were said behind closed doors should remain there.”