Israel is slowly trying to convince Europe that the Jewish state is a key player in efforts to stem a rising tide of Islamic terrorism, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday morning as he made his way to the Continent for a two-day visit.
“Europe as a whole is undergoing changes. It faces very great challenges over the spread of radical Islamic terrorism,” he said as he boarded his plane to the Netherlands.
Netanyahu plans to discuss with his interlocutors Israel’s “central role” as the “most stable and most stabilizing element in the Middle East,” one that contributes greatly to preventing the spread of terrorism, he added.
“This is a new understanding; it is important, of course, for Israel and the states of the region but it is also very important for Europe,” he said. “It is this understanding that we are working to instill gradually in all European countries.”
In The Hague, the prime minister will meet his Dutch counterpart, Mark Rutte, to discuss bilateral issues and regional developments. Netanyahu is also slated to meet King Willem-Alexander at the Noordeinde Palace. It will be Netanyahu’s first meeting with the monarch since he succeeded to the throne in April 2013.
Netanyahu will visit the Dutch parliament and conduct meetings with Senate President Ankie Broekers-Knol and House of Representatives Speaker Khadija Arib. In a planned meeting with members of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, he is set to “present Israel’s policy in the regional context and vis-à-vis Europe,” according to the Prime Minister’s Office.
Despite occasional disagreements, mainly about the settlements, the Netherlands is considered to be among Israel’s closest allies in Europe. Netanyahu sees Rutte as a personal friend. However, one of Rutte’s predecessors, Dries van Agt, this week called Netanyahu a war criminal who should be prosecuted.
“There’s a war criminal coming to this country,” said Van Agt, 85, who served as Dutch prime minister for five years until 1982, citing “occupation” and settlement expansions. “So why should we receive someone who continues with such things, we could have sent him right away to the International Criminal Court, that would have been better,” he said of Netanyahu.
Before taking off for The Hague, Netanyahu said he continues to monitor the rescue efforts currently taking place at the site of a collapsed parking garage in Tel Aviv, which he visited Monday night. He said he was “deeply impressed” by the work of the various rescue units scrambling to save lives.
“The people are doing exceptional work on the highest professional level to be found anywhere in the world. There are still people trapped; we are making every effort and are not giving up on anyone. We will reach them all,” he vowed.
JTA contributed to this report.