10th Dec 2023

MEPs boycott trip after Israeli snub

  • Manu Pineda - chair of the EU Parliament's Delegation for relations with Palestine 'not approved' by Israel (Photo:
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Last-minute Israeli blacklistings and red lines have prompted MEPs to call off an official trip, posing the question if Israel can belittle the EU Parliament with impunity.

Six MEPs led by Spanish left-winger and well-known Palestinian supporter Manu Pineda were due to meet Palestinian ministers in the occupied territories this weekend.

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  • Gaza - the poorest and most isolated part of Palestine (Photo: Marcin Monko)

But instead EU staff, some of whom were already at airports, were told to turn around and go home because Israeli restrictions had made the visit untenable.

For one, Israel informed the EU embassy in Tel Aviv on Friday (19 May) that Pineda, who is chair of the EU Parliament's Delegation for relations with Palestine, was persona non grata, pushing the other five MEPs to boycott the trip in solidarity.

For good measure, right-wing Israeli media attacked Pineda for alleged ties with "terror supporters".

And to top things off, Israel told the EU that MEPs wouldn't be allowed to visit Gaza anyway — the most miserable part of Palestine.

"I was standing in the queue to board my flight from Dublin Airport when we got the news that Israel was obstructing our access," Irish Green MEP Grace O'Sullivan said on Sunday.

"Once again, Israel is blocking Parliament's attempts and work to assess the situation of the Palestinian people," said Pineda.

For some in Brussels, Israel's tactics looked like deliberate sabotage of his delegation.

And it recalled past EU Parliament clashes with China and Russia in which the EU assembly took firm action against political exclusion of MEPs.

Parliament mothballed a landmark EU-China investment treaty after Beijing blacklisted five MEPs in a human-rights dispute last year.

It also excluded Russian diplomats back in 2015 in a similar row in times before the current Ukraine war.

The EU Parliament president, Roberta Metsola, who arrived in Israel for a three-day visit on Sunday, said she'd "raise the issue" of Pineda's exclusion with Israeli authorities.

"I regret the decision," she said.

"Respect for MEPs and the European Parliament is essential for good relations," the centre-right Metsola, who is due to address the Knesset on Monday in a rare honour, also said.

But for O'Sullivan Sunday's "regret" shouldn't be the last that Israel hears of the affront.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen is also due to visit Israel in June, O'Sullivan noted.

"The European Parliament, and the EU at large has shown that it can take appropriate retaliatory measures in cases where countries such as Russia or China target our MEPs," she said.

"I want to see similar leadership in this current situation," O'Sullivan said, referring to Metsola and von der Leyen's follow up.

The Israeli mission to the EU did not reply to EUobserver's request for a comment on Sunday.

The Israeli foreign ministry note about Pineda of 19 May said only that he was "not approved", without giving any justification.

The MEPs weren't allowed to visit Gaza because "according to the current policy, we can't allow the visit to Gaza of delegations with political affiliation" an Israeli military sergeant wrote in a message to the EU side.


Was the EU's response to Shireen Abu Aklek's funeral enough?

It's difficult to explain to our people how EU made immediate use of all diplomatic tools in the case of Ukraine after five-days of conflict — but has avoided to do the same in Palestine during the past 74 years.

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