A senior government official, Italian Member of European Parliament and head of its Foreign Affairs Committee, Gabriele Albertini, stepped out of a delegation to Israel, calling the delegation's planned trip an “anti-Israel propaganda mission.”
Italian Fiorello Provera, Vice-Chairman of the foreign affairs committee and Dutch Bastiaan Belder, Chairman of the
European Parliament delegation with Israel, followed his example, saying : "We think that the delegation's programme is too one-sided, and for this reason it is extremely unhelpful to the cause we all wish to promote, at a crucial moment, when the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority are restarting indirect talks."
"Recent controversy on the nature of next week's official delegation of the European Parliament to Israel and the Palestinian territories led us to conclude, regrettably, that we are left with no other choice but to withdraw our participation from this mission."
" We were elected to promote dialogue, reconciliation and to seek a better understanding of the complexities and the difficult challenges that the parties face on the road to peace" they said in their statement to the media.
Albertini, the first to decide to leave, shared his views regarding the delegation with EU official Silvio Gonzato via email. The email was leaked to the EU Observer, which published part of Albertini's message this week.
"Out of the 25 deputies who are to take part in the mission, there are fewer colleagues than the fingers on one hand whom you could define as pro-Israeli or even neutral,” Albertini told Gonzato. “Rather than a peace-keeping mission, it looks like an anti-Israel propaganda mission is being prepared!”
The email followed a disagreement between Albertini and his fellow delegates after Israel refused to authorize the group to enter Gaza from Israel. While Albertini believed the delegation should alter its itinerary to allay Israel's concerns, other delegates voted to circumvent Israel's decision by entering Gaza through Egypt, and to show their displeasure by canceling a meeting with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.
According to Albertini one delegate, German MEP Hans-Gert Poettering, wanted to hold a press conference criticizing Israel before the mission even began. Poettering's idea earned applause from his fellow delegates, he added.
Israel turned down the delegates' request to enter Gaza due to concern that diplomatic missions to Gaza give moral support to Hamas. Israeli officials also noted that the EU delegation planned to “concentrate its program around interlocutors representing the views of only one side of the conflict.”