4th Dec 2023

Diplomatic spat between Israel and Spain over Gaza

  • Spain's acting minister of social rights, Ione Belarra, called for economic sanctions against Israel and the suspension of diplomatic relations (Photo: La Moncloa)
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Comments by a Spanish cabinet minister this week have sparked tensions between Israel and Madrid, prompting a harsh exchange and complicating the two countries' diplomatic relationship.

Israel's deputy ambassador to Spain Dan Poraz on Wednesday (18 October) slammed the leader of the leftwing Podemos, acting minister of social rights, Ione Belarra, for blaming Israel for Tuesday's attack on the hospital in the Gaza Strip.

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"The unbearable double standard of the cynicism of those who choose to believe the version of a global terrorist organisation instead of that of a liberal democracy," Poraz tweeted, with a picture featuring both the minister and the former leader of her party, Pablo Iglesias.

The spat comes after Belarra's allegation that Israel was responsible for a hospital bombing — contrary to the Spanish ministry of foreign affairs' demand for a full investigation.

And it follows Belarra's demand for prime minister Pedro Sánchez to use Spain's current EU Council presidency as an opportunity to suspend diplomatic relations with Israel and impose economic sanctions.

She previously accused Israel of committing "genocide" against the Palestinians, and called for Israel to be brought before the International Criminal Court for war crimes.

Earlier this week, tensions between Spain and Israel escalated when Israel accused members of the Spanish government of supporting Hamas — leading to a harsh response from Madrid.

In a statement issued by the Israeli embassy in Spain on Monday evening, Israel said it was very worrying that certain ministers from the Spanish government have chosen to align themselves with Hamas terrorism, similar to that of ISIS.

In addition to Belarra, acting labour minister Yolanda Díaz (of the leftwing Sumar party), and acting consumer minister Alberto Garzón (from the United Left) have also been criticised by Israel for making "absolutely immoral" statements that could put at risk Jewish communities in Spain of antisemitic attacks.

In response, the Spanish government rejected false claims made by the Israeli embassy, denouncing them as "unfounded insinuations."

Talking to reporters in Strasbourg on Wednesday, Spanish minister for foreign affairs, José Manuel Albares, said that the issue has been resolved.

"What we have to do is not contribute to escalations, on the contrary, we all have to be very responsible because we can all contribute to de-escalation also within our own societies," he said. "We have to be very careful in what we say, how we say it and when we say it."

Albares also pointed out that only the prime minister and the foreign affairs minister have the authority to represent Spain's official foreign policy, during a press conference on Tuesday.

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