European lawmakers taken to Hezbollah tunnel on northern border

Delegation of 12 MEPs, including a former prime minister, visits with President Herzog, urges cooperation on antisemitism, innovation

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Members of the European Parliament visit a Hezbollah tunnel on Israel's northern border, on November 11, 2021 (Reouven Ben Haim/ELNET)
Members of the European Parliament visit a Hezbollah tunnel on Israel's northern border, on November 11, 2021 (Reouven Ben Haim/ELNET)

Senior members of the European Parliament viewed a Hezbollah tunnel at the Israel town of Zarit on the Lebanon border on Thursday.

The delegation, organized by ELNET-European Leadership Network, flew by helicopter from Jerusalem to the border, where they were briefed by the Israel Defense Forces on the security situation in Lebanon.

The cross-border tunnel, plunging more than 80 meters (260 feet) below ground, was the largest and deepest of six passageways that Israel said members of the Hezbollah terror group had dug as part of a plan to carry out attacks against soldiers and civilians.

They were sealed off in a highly-publicized 2019 operation, though Israeli military officials regularly give visiting dignitaries tours of tunnels on its borders with Gaza and Hamas to demonstrate the threats it faces.

The 12 lawmakers on the delegation — which includes a former prime minister and several former ministers — are in Israel on a five-day visit.

On Tuesday, they met with Knesset members, and on Wednesday, they had an audience with President Isaac Herzog.

They also visited Jerusalem’s Old City and Yad Vashem, where they discussed antisemitism in Europe.

“We are two democracies under threat — different threats,” Antonio López-Isturíz White, MEP from the European People’s Party-Spain and chairman of the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with Israel, said to Herzog.

“You have the survival threat against Iran and its proxies, and we have threats raging from populism and regimes that undermine our democracy. There are things that we believe you need us [for] — like the Horizon program, trade, and the fight against climate change. And we need you, for the security of Europe, for your expertise in this fascinating time of new technology.”

Herzog pointed to the intellectual and cultural heritage Israel shares with Europe as the foundation for future cooperation. He also praised the recently-launched European Union Strategy on Combating Antisemitism and Fostering Jewish Life, and urged the European Parliament to fight antisemitism.

“The arrival of these respected members of the European parliament is another significant step toward strengthening the vital relationship between Israel and Europe,” said Shai Bazak, CEO of ELNET-Israel.

“The purpose of the delegation is to provide them with an in-depth understanding of the economic, security, and civil conditions in Israel, in order to foster future collaborations and initiatives. I am confident that the tour will encourage us to advance our mutual interests further.”

Senior members of the European Parliament meet President Isaac Herzog in Jerusalem, on November 4, 2021 (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

The delegation is led by Lopez-Isturi White.

Joining him were former Estonian prime minister Andrus Ansip; Assita Kanko of Belgium; Elena Yontcheva of Bulgaria; Isabel Benjumea Benjumea of Spain; Jens Gieseke of Germany; Manolis Kefalogiannis of Greece; Michael David Lega of Sweden; Ljudmila Novak of Slovenia; Andreas Schwab of Germany; Juan Ignacio Zoido Álvarez of Spain; and EPP Deputy Secretary-General Christian Kremer.

The visit comes weeks after Israel and the EU finalized their agreement for Jerusalem to join the EU’s largest research and innovation program, Horizon Europe.

The EU noted that joint projects with Israel have led to breakthroughs in climate change, public health and safe transportation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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