Ursula von der Leyen has doubled down on her support for Israel amid claims of bias from 800 European Union staff.
The president of the European Commission sparked fury among the bloc’s foreign policy team at the end of last week after she failed to mention the EU’s support for a Palestinian state when commenting on the Israel-Hamas war.
Ms von der Leyen emphasised Israel’s right to defend itself during a speech delivered at the Hudson Institute think tank in Washington DC on Thursday (October 19).
EU policy stresses the need for a two state solution to resolve the decades long conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
Some 800 EU staff wrote to Ms von der Leyen to complain while one official told Politico she had put forward an unbalanced view of the bloc’s position.
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Despite the criticism, Ms von der Leyen reiterated her position on Sunday (October 22) as she spoke at an event in front of the youth wing of her centre-right CDU/CSU political group.
Again, the Commission president failed to mention the two state solution, although she did say Israel’s defence in response to Hamas’s murderous attack should comply with international law and stress the need for aid to Gaza.
Politico quotes Ms von der Leyen as saying: “There is no contradiction in standing in solidarity with Israel and providing humanitarian aid in Gaza.”
The same publication reports Ms Von der Leyen also took a critical position towards Iran, maintaining Tehran stood “behind Hamas”.
She added: “Iran has no interest whatsoever in this region coming to peace. On the contrary, Iran wants to foment violence and chaos because that secures its influence.”
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Ireland’s premier, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, has said some of Ms von der Leyen’s comments in response to the Israel-Hamas war have lacked balance.
Mr Varadkar, speaking earlier this week, said: “While I think President Von der Leyen has done an extremely good job as president of the European Commission… some of the statements she made lacked balance, in my view. And I said that to her and I have no difficulty saying that.
“I do think statements she’s made more recently were more balanced, specifically talking about the tripling of humanitarian aid for Gaza, and also the attempts that we’re making at the moment to organise a UN humanitarian airbridge from Gaza through Egypt.”
Irish President Michael D Higgins last week also criticised the EU Commission president, insisting she was “not speaking for Ireland”.
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Meanwhile, Israeli warplanes struck targets across Gaza on Sunday (October 22), two airports in Syria and a mosque in the occupied West Bank allegedly used by militants, as the two-week-old war with Hamas threatened to spiral into a wider conflict.
Since the war began, Israel has exchanged fire with Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group and tensions are soaring in the occupied West Bank where Israeli forces have battled militants in refugee camps and carried out two airstrikes in recent days.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told troops in the north of his country that if Hezbollah launches a war, “it will make the mistake of its life.
He told them: “We will cripple it with a force it cannot even imagine and the consequences for it and the Lebanese state will be devastating.”
UNRWA, the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, confirmed the arrival of 14 trucks of aid into Gaza on Sunday after 20 trucks entered the territory in the first aid shipment since Israel imposed a total siege two weeks ago.
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