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February 28, 2023 3:02 pm

Barcelona Boycott Won’t Affect Israel Ties, Minister of Economy Says

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avatar by Ben Cohen

Israel’s Economy Minister Nir Barkat in Barcelona. Photo: Screenshot

Israel’s Economy Minister has emphasized that commercial ties between Israel and Barcelona remain solid, despite the decision of the Spanish city’s mayor to unilaterally cut ties with the Jewish state in protest at its policies towards the Palestinians.

Speaking on a visit to the capital of Spain’s Catalunya region, Nir Barkat declared that Israel “loves Barcelona and it loves Spain.”

The former mayor of Jerusalem added that he was upbeat about future ties. “I am convinced that relations between Israel and Barcelona will not only continue, but will flourish and improve,” Barkat said, following a visit to Barcelona’s main synagogue on Tuesday morning. Approximately 3,000 Jews live in the city.

Barkat said that his attempt to meet with Ada Colau, the Mayor of Barcelona, had been unsuccessful. “I would like to speak with her; when I was mayor of Jerusalem I always made an effort to create bridges of collaboration, just as I do now as a minister,” he said.

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Earlier this month, Colau sparked outrage when she told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a letter that her city was “temporarily suspending” its twinning agreement with Tel Aviv, along with all other connections with Israel, in protest at what she called the “systematic violation of the people of Palestine’s human rights.”

Colau informed Netanyahu that the suspension would remain in place “until the Israeli authorities put an end to the system of violations of the Palestinian people and fully comply with the obligations imposed on them by international law and the various United Nations resolutions.”

Colau’s decision encountered its first setback one week later, when a clear majority of the Barcelona city council voted to reject the severing of ties with Israel. However, the decision requires her active consent to be reversed.

Colau’s refusal to back down was sharply criticized by the Spanish commentator Pilar Rahola. “Thanks to an autocratic gesture, unbecoming of a democratic spirit, she imposes her law against the will of the majority,” Rahola wrote in a piece for the news outlet Opinion on Tuesday.

Barkat’s visit came as local media outlet Radio Catalunya reported that antisemitic offenses in Barcelona doubled in January and February when compared with last year. The radio station noted that 12 outrages had been reported so far, some of them occurring after Colau made her announcement.

While Colau has insisted that her decision amounts to “criticism of a government, not of a people, a community, or a religion,” the head of Barcelona’s Jewish community made his disagreement clear.

“We are always on permanent alert,” Isaac Levi, a member of the community’s board, told the news outlet Diario Judio. “What is true is that we see a danger with the unilateral decision that mayor Ada Colau has taken on the issue of Tel Aviv.”

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