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European Parliament president to Knesset: To be antisemitic is to be anti-European

Roberta Metsola expresses support for Israel and 2-state solution to jeers from Arab and far-right lawmakers; Knesset speaker tells her EU should condition funding to Palestinians

Roberta Metsola, president of the European Parliament, with Knesset speaker Mickey Levy during a plenum session in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on May 23, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/ FLASH90)
Roberta Metsola, president of the European Parliament, with Knesset speaker Mickey Levy during a plenum session in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on May 23, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/ FLASH90)

Addressing the Knesset on Monday, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said antisemitism was contrary to European values, vowed to combat Jew-hatred, and expressed support for Israel and a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“It pains me to say that, today we are seeing antisemitism on the rise. We know that that is a warning sign for humanity. It matters to all of us,” she told Israeli lawmakers. “I will not be ambiguous: To be antisemitic is to be anti-European.”

“Every day, we still witness attacks on Jews, on synagogues,” she said. “The European Parliament is committed to breaking the cycle, to combating antisemitism.”

She noted that this was her first visit to Israel, and stated that “it will not be my last,” emphasizing her desire to deepen ties between Israel and the EU in culture, science, trade, education, art, research, and technology. The European Parliament is one of the European Union’s legislative bodies

“The ties of our people are deep,” Metsola said, adding that Israel and Europe have “a bond made in suffering and in salvation… a bond that has and will withstand the test of time.”

She spoke in support of Israel, and for the two-state solution.

“Let me be clear: Europe will always back Israel’s right to exist,” she said to applause.

“We support a two-state solution — with the secure State of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous, viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security,” she said, to smatterings of both applause and jeers.

Her speech was intermittently interrupted by shouting and booing from Knesset member Ahmad Tibi of the Arab-majority Joint List, and far-right Religious Zionist lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir, among others.

Roberta Metsola, president of the European Parliament, with Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy during a welcome ceremony at the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on May 23, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Metsola seemed prepared for the mixed reactions, saying: “I know there have been multiple false starts to this process. I know that not everyone sees peace as a goal. And I know how hard it must be to tell a mother whose child has been killed that peace is the answer. And there are too many such mothers.”

She pointed to the Abraham Accords, last year’s normalization agreements between Israel and Arab states, as evidence that “peace is possible.”

“The Abraham Accords may well have seemed inconceivable only a short while ago, but they proved that history does not always have to repeated. That the cycle can indeed be broken,” she said.

Roberta Metsola, president of the European Parliament, during a welcome ceremony at the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on May 23, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Metsola’s remarks did not seem to satisfy Tibi, who later lashed out at her for insufficiently addressing “the occupation” and Palestinian reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed in the West Bank earlier this month, during a gunfight between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen.

“It’s very telling, yet shameful, that [Metsola] would address the Israeli parliament without even mentioning the occupation, as if nothing had happened with [Abu Akleh]. Today’s speech was a green light for further crimes and violations,” Tibi said.

Earlier on Monday, arriving at the Knesset ahead of her speech, Metsola met with Knesset speaker Mickey Levy, who asked her “to condition donations to the Palestinian Authority upon the cessation of incitement.”

Roberta Metsola, president of the European Parliament, with Knesset speaker Mickey Levy during a welcome ceremony at the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on May 23, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The European Union provides the Palestinian Authority with about €214 million ($229 million) in annual aid. Israel has long criticized the Palestinian education system for curriculum it deems inciteful.

Levy emphasized to Metsola the seriousness of incitement, especially in the context of the recent terror wave that killed 19 people since mid-March.

“For about two months, Israel has been in the midst of a wave of terrorism fueled by severe incitement against Jews and against Israel,” Levy told Metsola.

“Unfortunately, it connects to institutionalized and permanent incitement that we are witnessing in textbooks in the Palestinian Authority that are also funded by the European Union,” he added.

Metsola’s trip to Israel marks her first official visit outside of the European Union.

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