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May 23, 2022 4:29 pm
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European Parliament President in Jerusalem: ‘Europe Will Always Back Israel’s Right to Exist’

avatar by Algemeiner Staff

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola addresses the Knesset in Jerusalem, Israel, on May 23, 2022. Photo: © European Union 2022 – Multimedia Centre, European Parliament

The president of the European Parliament on Monday slammed resurgent antisemitism as an “anti-European” scourge and called for strengthening links between Israel and the continent.

In her first presidential visit outside Europe, Roberta Metsola addressed a special plenary session of the Knesset in Jerusalem, where she called Israel’s story “one of hope, of perseverance, of faith, and of overcoming adversity.”

“I’m here to talk about improving ties in culture, in science, in trade, in education, in arts, in research and in technology,” she told her audience, which included Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. “About peace. About facing the future together.”

Metsola, a member of the center-right European People’s Party group, early on acknowledged “the threats — some existential — that you face; of the difficulties in supporting a vibrant democracy.”

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She took aim at the continued questioning of “Israel’s right to existence” — a notion often rejected by anti-Zionist governments and organizations, who frame the Jewish state’s founding and continued survival as illegitimate.

“Let me be clear: Europe will always back Israel’s right to exist,” she said to applause.

Referencing her trip earlier Monday to Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust memorial, Metsola added, “It pains me to say that, today we are seeing antisemitism on the rise. We know that this is a warning sign for humanity. And it matters to all of us.”

“I will not be ambiguous: to be antisemitic is to be anti-European. And everyday we still witness attacks on Jews, on synagogues.”

The European Parliament, she pledged, “is committed to breaking the cycle” and “combating antisemitism.”

Touching on the prospect of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, Metsola affirmed the parliament’s continued support of “a two-state solution — with the secure State of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous, viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security.”

“Progress is possible,” she insisted, pointing to the opening of relations between Israel and several Arab countries in 2020. “The Abraham Accords may well have seemed inconceivable only a short while ago, but they proved that history does not always have to repeated.”

Metsola also spoke out against terrorism, saying, “People deserve to go about their lives, send their children to school, walk down the street free from fear.” Israel has grappled with a wave of violence by Palestinian and Arab Israeli perpetrators since late March, which has left 19 people dead and multiple injured.

“I know how hard it must be to tell a mother whose child has been killed that peace is the answer,” she said. “But peace is the only way forward. The only way for Israelis and Palestinians to live in safety and prosperity.”

Her speech was received with a standing ovation, though it was briefly interrupted by heckling, which is common in the Israeli parliament.

A native of Malta, Metsola was elected to the European Parliament with wide support in January 2022 and will serve until 2024. She is the youngest lawmaker and the third woman to ever helm the institution.

Her trip to Israel kicked off with some controversy on Sunday, amid the announcement that a Spanish communist MEP who heads the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Palestine would not be permitted to enter Israel. “I will raise the issue directly with authorities concerned,” Metsola tweeted.

As part of her tour, Metsola met with students at Tel Aviv University and with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, and inaugurated the European Forest in Israel, a project of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael — Jewish National Fund.

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