Bennett and Schulz Meet, Put Knesset Storm Behind Them
Economics Minister and leader of the Jewish Home Party Naftali Bennett met today with European Parliament President Martin Schulz in Brussels, only a week after fiercely criticizing him over controversial comments during an address to the Knesset.
Schulz roiled many MKs when he accused Israel of discriminating against Palestinian Arabs in Judea and Samaria when allocating water resources, and of imposing a "siege" on Hamas-ruled Gaza. In response, Jewish Home MKs walked out of the plenum and the party’s chairman, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, demanded that Schulz apologize.
It was later revealed that the top EU diplomat had been duped by Palestinian Authority officials, and neglected to check the figures on water distribution he had been provided with - which were false even according to the PA's own statistics.
The meeting, which went on for an hour, was conducted in a positive atmosphere and covered a wide range of topics - including the recent Knesset storm, which both men agreed to put behind them. Schulz reiterated his support for Israel during the meeting and said he would always stand beside the Jewish state.
The two also discussed political and economic relations between Israel and the EU - which, despite boycott threats, is one of Israel's biggest trading partners - and agreed on further cooperation.
"Europe is a leading trade partner with Israel and it is imperative to work to further relations between us," declared Bennett.
At the end of the meeting Bennett presented Schulz with a 2,200-year-old coin from the ancient City of David in Jerusalem, to the latter's obvious delight.
Bennett was in the Belgian capital for a conference of ministers of industry from across the Middle East and Europe, including Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and Greece, among others.
He also met with Antonio Tajani, Vice President of the European Commission and the EU's Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, to discuss bilateral relations between Israel and the EU, as well as to address efforts to "delegitimize" Israel by elements within the European Union itself, such as the EU's decision to label produce made by Jews in Judea and Samaria, and last year's infamous guidelines against professional cooperation with Jewish-owned businesses in the area.
Israel's Economics Minister also met with the Egyptian delegation, during which he spoke on the phone with his Egyptian counterpart. The two reportedly agreed to meet in person at a future date.
Throughout his visit, Bennett took the opportunity to explain Israel's positions on key issued, and urged diplomats to help combat attempts to boycott Israel, saying the Jewish state was being cynically and unfairly singled-out.
"There are many conflict zones in the world, but for some reason they decide specifically to focus on Israel," he said.
Bennett went on to emphasize the importance of economic relations with the EU, and added that economic cooperation could also open a new, more positive chapter between Israel and its Arab neighbors.