Earlier this week, EU foreign ministers called for a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas but failed to reach the unanimity that might give Brussels some leverage in peacemaking. Hungary, Israel’s closest ally in the bloc, went against the other 26 nations in calling for a truce on their video call, convened by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell. Nevertheless, the other ministers vowed that the EU should try to relaunch the peace process along with the US, Russia and the United Nations (UN).
Maltese Foreign Minister Evarist Bartolo said: “As a minimum we can try to get a ceasefire, then provide humanitarian aid, and then see what can be done to restart the Middle East peace process to address the root causes of the violence.
“We cannot let the extremists on both sides feed off each other and set the agenda.”
Tensions have been running high in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem after an Israeli court ordered the eviction of Palestinian families, which was later delayed.
Palestinians protesting in solidarity with residents of Sheikh Jarrah have been targeted by Israeli forces.
The escalation resulted in airstrikes by Israel on Gaza, which has left at least 119 people dead and 830 others wounded, according to Palestinian health authorities.
As many wonder whether EU divisions over the conflict will leave Brussels powerless, comments made by the elder son of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Yair, on the bloc have resurfaced.
After an EU official attended an Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day event last year, the Prime Minister’s son warned Brussels of its imminent “death”.
In response to a tweet by the official Twitter account of the EU’s mission in Ramat Gan, he tweeted: “Shame on you for financing a disgrace in the holiest day of the Israeli calendar!
“We have one day in a year to remember our fallen soldiers!
“And you destroy it with a ‘memorial’ to Palestinian terrorists!”
Yair Netanyahu added: “EU is an enemy of Israel, and an enemy to all European Christian countries!
“The Schengen zone is dead and soon your evil globalist organisation will be too, and Europe will return to be free, democratic and Christian!”
A spokesperson for the EU’s Israel mission told The Times of Israel that it did not financially support the event.
Earlier that day, the EUinIsrael Twitter account tweeted: “Yesterday we joined members of the Parents’ Circle @ThePCFF, in the joint virtual [Israeli-Palestinian] memorial ceremony sharing their grief and breaking the cycle of violence and hatred.
“Those who have lost loved ones in the conflict know best the necessity of peace and the path to reaching it.”
During the event, which organisers said was viewed by nearly 200,000 people, bereaved Israeli and Palestinian families made an impassioned plea for reconciliation.
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The Israeli-Palestinian Joint Memorial Day Ceremony was held without a live audience for the first time since its inception in 2006 due to the coronavirus, and instead was live-streamed from studios in Tel Aviv and Ramallah.
An Israeli emcee broadcast from the event’s usual location in Tel Aviv in Hebrew and a Palestinian emcee hosted from Ramallah in Arabic.
Speakers included Israelis Hagai Yoel and Tal Kfir, and Palestinians Yusra Mahfoud and Yaqoub Rabi, all of whom lost relatives in the past two decades of the conflict.
Yair Netanyahu has gained a reputation as an arch-conservative, known for brash and often off-colour social media trolling.
His father has also strongly condemned the EU in the past, though.
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In 2017, Mr Netanyahu launched a withering attack on the bloc at a closed-door meeting of eastern European leaders in Budapest, warning the political grouping would wither and die if it did not change its policy towards his country.
The overheard remarks were reported by Israeli journalists covering the trip.
In the meeting with the leaders of Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Poland, Mr Netanyahu also urged them to close their doors to refugees from Africa and the Middle East.
He said: “I think Europe has to decide if it wants to live and thrive or if it wants to shrivel and disappear.
“I am not very politically correct. I know that’s a shock to some of you. It’s a joke.
“But the truth is the truth – both about Europe’s security and Europe’s economic future. Both of these concerns mandate a different policy toward Israel.”
Before officials realised the meeting was being overheard by reporters and cut the feed, Mr Netanyahu insisted: “The European Union is the only association of countries in the world that conditions the relations with Israel, which produces technology in every area, on political conditions. The only ones! Nobody does it.”
Urging the leaders to help push Europe to expedite the EU association agreement with Israel that had been held up because of current Israeli policies, he added: “It’s crazy. It’s actually crazy.
“I think that if I can suggest that what comes out of this meeting is your ability perhaps to communicate to your colleagues in other parts of Europe: Help Europe… don’t undermine the one western country that defends European values and European interests and prevents another mass migration to Europe.
“So stop attacking Israel. Start supporting Israel… start supporting European economies by doing what the Americans, the Chinese and the Indians are doing.
“There is no logic here. The EU is undermining its security by undermining Israel. Europe is undermining its progress by undermining its connection with Israeli innovation.”