A historic conference in support of the Jewish settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria took place Tuesday inside one of the bastions of opposition to the Jewish presence in the region – the European Parliament.
The conference was organized by the Deputy Chairman of the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, Dr. Fiorello Provera of Italy, who became a supporter of the Jewish communities after touring Samaria (Shomron), and by senior MEP Bastiaan Belder of Holland, who has also become a friend of Samaria in recent years.
The Israeli delegation included Samaria (Shomron) Regional Council Head Gershon Mesika, Acting Council Head Yossi Dagan, and the Director of Shomron Foreign Department, Shay Atias. MK Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) was also a part of the delegation.
David Walzer, Israel's Ambassador to the EU, delivered an address at the conference – the first time he has done so alongside the Samaria representatives.
In the two days that preceded the conference, members of the Israeli delegation met with influential MEPs including Germany's Elmar Brok, Chairman of the EU's Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Alejo Vidal Quadras, Vice-President of the European Parliament.
About 20 MEPs took part in the historic conference, in the Foreign Affairs Committee hall, and many media representatives attended it as well.
Samaria Regional Council Head Gershon Mesika said in his speech that “the European Union needs to carry out some serious soul searching, as regards its treatment of the Jewish people throughout history, in general, and specifically in recent years. The bad old anti-Semitism is cloaked in a costume of anti-Israelism nowadays.”
Mesika's deputy, Yossi Dagan, also addressed the gathering.
“The most important thing is to come out and see things with one's own eyes. For years, we have been talking in this building about Judea and Samaria, and yet most people have not been there and have not seen the reality," he said.
Dagan also took the opportunity to call on the EU to end its funding for radical anti-Israel organizations.
"The EU must stop funding the extreme leftist organizations that are sabotaging the coexistence in the factories of Judea and Samaria. This is a great waste of money and it harms coexistence as well as relations between the EU and Israel.”
MK Shaked called for a change in the very terminology employed within the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
“It is time to say the truth: Judea and Samaria are not occupied territory, but disputed territory. That is the truth as far as international law is concerned, as well.”
The Israelis' speeches were marked by applause from the audience.
MEP Adrian Severin of Romania said that the EU needs to rethink its new policy regarding marking products from Judea and Samaria.
“Although there are disputes, we must think if this is the right time to place pressure on the only stable place in the Middle East.”
Dr. Provera summed up the conference, saying that “MEPs in this house are not familiar with the facts. Did you know that Jews and Arabs work side by side in the factories of Samaria? The idea of putting pressure on Israel and slapping sanctions on it is unacceptable. It will not bring peace, but may only bring unemployment to the Palestinians, as a result of which they might turn to terror.”
The conference was organized by the Foreign Affairs Bureau of the Samaria Regional Council, which has been working with the EU for the past 18 months and which assembled the rare coalition of 20 MEPs.
The Samaria Regional Council has hosted more than 70 MEPs for tours of Samaria in the past 18 months, as well as 100 foreign journalists.