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Spanish party: Downgrade Israel ties

MADRID, Oct. 6 (JTA) — A Spanish political party’s recent appeal for Europe to downgrade its ties with Jerusalem has angered Israel, which anticipated improved diplomatic treatment after the recent Gaza Strip withdrawal. The party is small and the non-binding appeal was watered down in the Spanish Parliament, but Israeli diplomats appear eager to send a message to European politicians that the Jewish state deserves a breather after the withdrawal. “We are concerned about the moral issue,” said Jackie Eldan, spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Madrid. “This is exactly not the right moment for strange and unconstructive initiatives.” The proposal was put forth by Esquerra Republicana, or Republican Left, a small, Barcelona-based faction notorious in Spain for its controversial stand in favor of sovereignty for the northeastern region of Catalonia. The party holds eight of the 350 seats in Spain’s Parliament. Esquerra Republicana’s proposal called for the European Union to suspend its commercial agreements and scientific and military cooperation with Israel because it “continues annexing territories in the West Bank and continues building its wall.” The wording ultimately was toned down in the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee. The new statement notes that the commission “is pleased” by the withdrawal from Gaza, but still demands a halt to the “illegal construction” of Israel’s security fence, and calls on the European Union to implement all of the clauses in its agreements with Israel — an implicit reference to human-rights stipulations. Eldan says the final statement fell short of what Israel believes Europe’s message should be now: that Hamas and Islamic Jihad have to hand in their weapons and cease to be terrorist organizations. And he remains outraged by the original proposal. “You have pro-Palestinians in Europe who are blinded by reality, while Palestinians in Israel are talking peace,” Eldan said. The change in wording came after the embassy aired its objections to the original draft in the Spanish press. Rosa Maria Bonas, an Esquerra Republicana lawmaker and one of the authors of the original draft, accused Israel of waging a campaign of “defamation and calumny” against the party. “We just wanted to send the message that after the withdrawal, peace is still endangered by settlement building,” she said. “In Europe, there is a sense that everything is OK after the Gaza withdrawal.” Bonas called herself “pro-Israeli” and noted that she and her son both are married to Israelis. She said her party’s initiative was a response to her contacts in Israel “who think the Israeli government has to be pressured” more after the Gaza pullout. Ironically, the leader of Esquerra Republicana, Josep-Lluis Carod-Rovira, is one of the most pro-Israeli figures on the Spanish political scene. The proposal was drafted the proposal while Carod-Rovira was on a visit to Israel, and he wasn’t informed about it. Some political observers have interpreted the proposal as a mutiny against the party leader, but Bonas denied that the timing was deliberate. Bonas said she didn’t know Carod-Rovira would be in Israel at the time — even though his visit made the front pages of Spanish newspapers nearly every day he was there.

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