Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu caused a stir at a Visegrad Group summit in Budapest on Wednesday, slamming the EU for what he described as its “crazy” approach in dealing with his country. He urged Visegrad leaders to lobby for a change of attitude in the interest of all parties.
The Israeli prime minister attended the Visegrad summit in Budapest with the aim of tabling an emphatic protest against the way the EU was treating his country, in particular for its insistence on terms relating to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process being included in its Association Agreement with Israel. As it turned out his message came across even stronger than planned after a forthright statement made in a closed meeting was accidentally broadcast to reporters. In the speech Netanyahu slammed the EU for what he called its “crazy” approach to Israel, saying that Europe was the only major power to attach political conditions to its relationship with Israel and arguing that by undermining his country the EU was undermining its own security and working against its own best interests.
“There is an anomaly – I don’t hide it. We are often criticized by Europe, more than any other place by Western Europe. Israel is the one democracy in the Middle East. Israel is the one beacon of tolerance in a very wide area. Israel is the one place where Christians are safe –the Christian community in Israel not only survives but thrives and grows. Israel is a bastion of European and Western values in the heart of a very, very dark area.”
Netanyahu said his country had a special relationship with China –with no conditions attached –and India and Russia had a similar approach, urging the Visegrad prime ministers to push for a deal on a new Association Agreement which would open the door to security and prosperity.
“We are an innovation nation. We have thousands and thousands of start-ups and we seek to have this cooperation with you – the Visegrad Group – and with Europe. And I believe that it is in the interest of Europe –the objective interest of Europe – to cooperate with Israel in these two areas – the fight against terrorism and technology for the future. One is fighting the forces of the past, the other is securing a better, more prosperous future for our peoples.”
The Israeli prime minister’s protest at the Visegrad sunmmit somewhat overshadowed the V4 ‘s own agenda –focusing on a double standard of consumer products sold in EU member states and the Visegrad countries’ continued rejection of mandatory quotas for migrants.
The summit – including the Israeli PM’s message -highlighted the fact that the V4 states stand somewhat apart from the rest of the EU and have led some Czech commentators to question the wisdom of staying in a close alliance with Poland, Hungary and Slovakia in a two-tier European Union. Czech Radio’s commentator Petr Šabata says that if the Czech Republic wants to be in the EU’s fast lane it will have to part with the Visegrad group.