Netanyahu Slams EU's Hypocrisy Following Belgium Attack
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu began his weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday by welcoming Pope Francis to the Holy Land.
"We welcome the arrival of Pope Francis to Israel, the Holy Land," Netanyahu said.
"The visit here is an opportunity to show to the world the real Israel, Israel as a modern and tolerant country - in fact, the only country in the Middle East that guarantees absolute freedom of religious people of all faiths, which allows for full freedom of worship and ensures everyone's rights - Jews, Muslims, and Christians."
Netanyahu then connected the papal visit with Saturday's horrific shooting attack in Brussels.
"We appreciate the firm position of the Pope against anti-Semitism, especially in light of the rising hatred of Jews we have seen recently," he said. "Last night's murder in Brussels is the result of endless incitement against Israel, from various Middle Eastern countries and in Europe itself."
Netanyahu slammed the "hypocrisy" of the EU.
"There are European officials who are quick to condemn any construction of an apartment in Jerusalem, but do not rush to denounce or condemn the murder of Jews here or in Europe itself - and even worse, also welcome unions with a terrorist like Hamas, who calls for Israel's destruction," he fired. "We drive against this hypocrisy, we challenge it, we will continue to tell the truth all the time, we will continue to fight terrorism and we will continue to fortify and build our country."
A gunman entered Brussels' Jewish Museum Saturday afternoon and began shooting, killing three people - including two Israelis - and critically wounding another.
A national manhunt has begun for the shooter; local police are still looking for possible suspects, official announced Sunday morning, despite at least one arrest shortly after the shooting.
Several Jewish leaders have fiercely condemned the attacks, warning as well of growing anti-Semitism in Europe.
Authorities have hesitated to instantly label the attack as a specific act of anti-Semitism, however; Interior Minister Joelle Milquet stated that while "there are strong grounds for presuming so," there is not enough information about the shooter or the motive to make a full confirmation of the shooting as a hate crime.
Netanyahu's comments also follow controversial comments from EU ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen, who embraced the unity pact between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas and suggested that Israel must negotiate with terrorists - as a piece of "friendly advice."
Affirmative action 'step in the right direction'
Netanyahu also referred to Economics Minister Naftali Bennett's (Jewish Home/Bayit Yehudi) proposal to introduce affirmative action for hareidi employment.
"Today, the government will vote on the bid to integrate the haredi public into the workforce, the public sector," he said. "We [have proposed this], the Economics Minister and myself, in order to increase the welfare of the hareidi community and to integrate them into the labor market overall."
"I think it is a right step in the right direction, and that there will be further steps," he concluded.
Bennett introduced the bill last week, which is one step in a larger framework of ongoing efforts to integrate more of the hareidi community into mainstream Israeli society - and lift the community out of poverty and social stigma, in his words.
A Labor Force survey recently revealed that during the first quarter of 2014, the employment rate of Haredi men was just 44.5% - significantly lower than the general rate of employment of men of working age (25-64), which is around 81%.
Another survey showed significant prejudice among Israeli employers. Forty-two percent of employers showed reluctance to employ Arab men; over a third of employers (37%) expressed a reluctance to employ hareidi men; and 13% of employers were unwilling to employ married women with small children from any sector.