Netanyahu scolds EU, says bloc doesn’t understand changing nature of Middle East

UAE, Bahrain, Sudan made peace with Israel and ‘obviously’ view regional situation differently from ‘traditional bureaucracies’ in Brussels, PM says at meeting with Romanian PM

Raphael Ahren is a former diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Romanian Prime Minister Ludovic Orban (L) with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, November 3, 2020 (GPO)
Romanian Prime Minister Ludovic Orban (L) with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, November 3, 2020 (GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday appeared to criticize the European Union for failing to understand the changing nature of the Middle East after Israel’s recent normalization agreements with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan.

At the beginning of a meeting with Romanian Prime Minister Ludovic Orban in Jerusalem, Netanyahu thanked Bucharest “for helping us present a sensible case to the EU.”

“We’re in a period of peace. We’ve made peace and normalization agreements with three Arab countries in six weeks. So obviously they have a different view of the situation here in the Middle East than some of the traditional bureaucracies of the EU,” Netanyahu said.

“We will continue to value your assistance in explaining to the EU the changing circumstances in the Middle East that are advancing peace and prosperity for all.”

(L-R) Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump, and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan hold up the documents they signed at the Abraham Accords ceremony where Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates recognized Israel, at the White House in Washington, DC, September 15, 2020. (Avi Ohayon / GPO)

Orban, who had arrived in Israel earlier on Tuesday, said that he would discuss with Netanyahu the “critical importance of building a stable regional security environment in the Middle East.”

His country “is already firmly committed to continue supporting Israel in its aim to strengthen ties with the European Union,” he said. He also “warmly” welcomed the US-brokered “new partnerships” between Jerusalem and Abu Dhabi, Manama and Khartoum.

“These agreements represent a milestone that can create a new momentum for the peace process [between Israel and the Palestinians] as well,” he said.

The EU, too, has welcomed, in separate statements, Israel’s agreements with the UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan. In these statements, Brussels stressed the hope that the so-called Abraham Accords would give new impetus to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and reiterated its support for a two-state outcome.

Orban, who was accompanied to Israel by Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu and Defense Minister Nicolae Ciuca, was also set to meet with President Reuven Rivlin, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

The Romanian delegation is also scheduled to meet with Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah.

In Orban’s public meeting with Netanyahu, the question of the status of Jerusalem did not come up, despite Romania being one of several countries that have in the past announced they would consider relocating their embassy to the city.

In March 2019, Orban’s predecessor, Viorica Dăncilă, publicly vowed to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, to much applause from Israeli politicians.

Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă speaks at the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, DC, on March 24, 2019. (Screen capture/AIPAC)

But in Romania, it is the president, and not the prime minister, who has the last word on the status of foreign missions. According to Romanian law, it is exclusively his prerogative to “approve the setting up, closing down, or change in rank of diplomatic missions.” And President Klaus Iohannis has been unequivocal in his opposition to moving the embassy.

In July 2019, Orban, then the leader of the opposition, sued Dăncilă and the leader of her Social Democratic Party, Liviu Dragnea, for high treason and other serious crimes for allegedly having publicly disclosed classified information about Bucharest’s internal deliberations about moving the embassy.

At the time, Orban said he was not necessarily attacking the potential relocation of the embassy but rather the manner in which Dăncilă announced the ostensible decision, arguing that she violated the constitution and other local laws.

An investigation was launched, but prosecutors closed the case after a few months for lack of evidence.

Other countries that vowed to move their embassy to Israel but haven’t done so include the Czech Republic, Brazil, Honduras, Moldova, Serbia and Kosovo.

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