THE HAGUE (JTA) — Four members of the European Parliament met with Israeli leaders during a solidarity visit to Israel following its escalated conflict with Hamas.
The members of the European Parliament returned to Brussels on Monday after touring the areas hit by Hamas rockets during the fighting that erupted on Nov. 14 on the Gaza border with Israel, when the Israeli military launched its Operation Pillar of Defense.
The visit by Marek Siwiecof Poland, Hannu Takkula of Finland, Bastiaan Belder of the Netherlands and Frederique Ries of Belgium was organized by the European Friends of Israel, an international group that aims to act as a framework for pro-Israel lawmakers.
During the visit, the lawmakers met President Shimon Peres and Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, among other officials, and talked about the ramifications of the United Nations General Assembly vote last week to upgrade Palestine to non-member observer state and European voting patterns on Israel, according to an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman. They also discussed other issues.
The delegation visited Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ashdod and several towns near Gaza, and did not visit the West Bank. The visit was scheduled approximately two months ago.
"Our plan for next year is not to focus solely on political issues,” said David Saranga, minister counsellor at Israel’s mission to the European Union. “Together with EFI we are looking for ways to make Israel relevant to a big number of members of the European Parliament by bringing Israel’s experience in the fields of innovation, agriculture, technology, health care and medicine."