Thursday, March 30th | 8 Nisan 5783

March 14, 2023 2:55 pm

Israeli Foreign Minister Pushes Back Against EU ‘Interference’ in Judicial Reform Crisis

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Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen is seen during a visit to Germany. Photo: Reuters/Christian Marquardt

Israel’s foreign minister sharply criticized his European counterpart on Tuesday, warning the EU against intervening in the febrile dispute over Israeli judicial reform as well as criticizing the bloc’s stance towards the conflict with the Palestinians.

In a telephone conversation with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen called on the EU to refrain from “interference” in Israel’s internal issues, currently dominated by the escalating conflict over the government’s plans to impose greater political control over judicial decisions.

Cohen also accused Borrell of drawing an equivalence between Palestinian terrorism and operations mounted by the IDF. On Monday, Borrell published an op-ed in the Jerusalem Post in which he asserted, “[B]eing honest means acknowledging that extremism is rising on both sides. Indiscriminate attacks and violence are taking many Israeli lives. Violence on the part of Israeli settlers in the West Bank is increasingly threatening Palestinian lives and livelihoods – almost always with impunity.”

Borrell went on to claim that “Israeli military operations frequently cause civilian Palestinian deaths, often without effective accountability; illegal settlements are expanding on occupied land; and the delicate status quo concerning holy sites is eroding. While Israelis can rely on a strong state and army, Palestinians have no such recourse.”

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He continued: “This vast inequality in the ability to control one’s destiny is visible at every roadside checkpoint. All these facts are obstacles to peace.”
According to the Israeli version of Tuesday’s call, Cohen told Borrell that there was “no place for comparisons and creating a balance between Israeli terror victims and Palestinian terrorists supported by the Palestinian Authority.”
He added that the “interference by the EU in Israel’s internal politics and the financing of Palestinian operations encouraging incitement and the payments to families of terrorists must stop.”

The call with Borrell came one day after Cohen met in Jerusalem with visiting Italian foreign minister Antonio Tajani. Following their encounter, Cohen said he had urged Tajani “to act to prevent European intervention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as such activity often encourages incitement and terrorism.”

The European Parliament is preparing to debate Israel’s judicial reform crisis Tuesday. The announcement last week of the debate noted that “with protests growing, including from members of Israel’s cultural sphere, hi-tech sector, economists and people linked to the military and intelligence community, Israeli security forces have occasionally used stun grenades and water cannons to disperse demonstrators.”

Meanwhile, Israel’s parliament on Tuesday voted in favor of a key bill that will enable certain laws to avoid judicial review. The Knesset passed the bill by 61 votes to 52. The bill now faces two more Knesset votes before it becomes law.

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