Ben-Gvir’s Insistence to Speak at EU Event Creates First Real Clash With Israel’s Far-right

‘There is a range of possible responses, starting with not attending the event at all to participating fully while ignoring Ben-Gvir and his speech. All options are on the table,’ a European diplomat explains
National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir last week.

By Amir Tibon, HAARETZ

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir last week.Credit: Ilan AssayagEuropean Union ambassadors to Israel will hold a special meeting on Monday to decide together on a response to the participation of far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir as Israel’s representative to Tuesday’s Europe Day event.

Ben-Gvir announced Sunday morning that he insists on speaking at the event marking the establishment of the EU, despite opposition to his far-right stance, and that he intends on expressing criticism of the EU’s line on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Ben-Gvir’s insistence on speaking at the event forced the European states – for the first time since the current government’s establishment – to confront the presence of the extreme right in the ranks of the Israeli government head-on.

A senior European diplomat told Haaretz that – until now – the policy of most European countries, and also of the European Union itself, was to seek cooperation with those perceived as moderate elements in the government and ignore the far-right parties headed by Ben-Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich. “Ben-Gvir is forcing the EU to stop this approach and respond,” the diplomat explained.

This comes after Foreign Minister Eli Cohen visited EU headquarters last week in Brussels, meeting EU Foreign Minister Josep Borrell, with the aim of improving relations. This was Cohen’s first visit to EU institutions in Brussels and was accompanied by a relatively positive message praising the “strong” relationship between the parties, a condemnation of the rocket fire into Israel, and included a relatively moderate reference to the Palestinian issue.

European diplomats told Haaretz that Monday’s meeting is “exceptional” and its goal is to formulate a joint policy in response.

“There is a range of possible responses, starting with not attending the event at all to participating fully while ignoring Ben-Gvir and his speech. All options are on the table,” one of the diplomats explained. “The concern is that every country will do something different, so there is an attempt to decide together how to respond to this provocation.”

The meeting on Monday was called on short notice, and is “not something that happens regularly,” one of the participants said. The meeting was arranged only after EU ambassadors understood that Ben-Gvir did not intend on pulling out of the event, despite explicit requests by a number of countries to replace him with another cabinet minister not identified with the extreme right.

The common concern among most of the ambassadors joining Monday’s meeting derives from Ben-Gvir’s attempt to gain international legitimacy at the EU’s expense.

One ambassador told Haaretz that Ben-Gvir will “arrive at the event, speak before a polite crowd that won’t boo or interrupt him, will shake some hands and use it to claim that the world is starting to accept him and his racist ideology.”

At least two envoys who will take part in the meeting will propose lowering the level of representation at the event from ambassadors to deputy ambassadors in order to send a clear message of rejecting Ben-Gvir’s positions.

The choice of Ben-Gvir as government representative at the reception surprised both Israel’s envoys to EU states and their counterparts in Israel. So far, no EU diplomat has met with Ben-Gvir since the government’s establishment in January.

Ben-Gvir was hosted before the swearing-in of the government at a reception of EU diplomats in Israel and was photographed embracing the Emirati ambassador. However, after his visit to the Temple Mount during the government’s first week, the United Arab Emirates also began distancing itself from him.

Immediately after the announcement that Ben-Gvir would act as a representative on Europe Day, officials from the EU hoped that the Israeli government would regain its composure and choose a replacement. Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, who was the natural choice to speak at the event, is leaving this week for a visit to India. Therefore, he won’t be able to represent Israel at the gathering. Still, EU officials made it clear that nearly any other cabinet minister besides Ben-Gvir would be welcome.

May 8, 2023 | 5 Comments »

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  1. Whatever the EU decides to do,it better do it fast before the Russians/Chinese.Indians melt the EU down to it’s component parts!

  2. The EU is not a friend of Israel, they pay to build the illegal settlements in Judea and Samaria!

  3. I seem to remember that the UN had no difficulty in permitting Yasser Arafat the opportunity of addressing the General Assembly, with gun in hand. And now the EU, thugs in suits, are distressed because an official of the Israeli government ‘with extreme right wing tendencies’ wishes to address the meeting. Perhaps if the minister had murdered a goodly number of people and came to the meeting with a gun or two, the cowards might listen respectfully. After all, their predecessors afforded Arafat this courtesy.