AMSTERDAM (JTA) — In an apparent break with the European Union position, Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said he has “no criticism” of Israel over its alleged strikes in Syria.
“Israel is right to look after its security: I have no criticism on its actions as it faces the risk of madman [Bashar] Assad spreading weapons to very dangerous organizations,” Timmermans said Monday, referring to Syria’s president.
Timmermans was addressing some 250 Jews and non-Jews at a ceremony in Amsterdam honoring Ronny Naftaniel, the former director of Holland’s leading pro-Israel group, the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel.
A spokesperson for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on May 6 expressed “great concern” following a strike in Syria that week that is widely attributed to Israel — the third such strike this year.
Ashton’s office said in a statement that the strikes, which an unnamed Israeli official described to The Associated Press as targeting Hezbollah-bound weapons from Iran, “risk dragging the region into expanding conflict.” The statement also called “on all parties to avoid jeopardizing what is already a fragile security situation.”
Timmermans said many Palestinians were “suffering” in Syria, where tens of thousands have died in a civil war that erupted two years ago.
“Look at how the Palestinians are being kicked out of Syria. There’s a myth that in Arab countries they all like Palestinians. They don’t. On the contrary,” the minister said.
Naftaniel, 64, said the “silence of so-called pro-Palestinian organizations on the plight of Palestinians in Syria exposes their real anti-Israel agendas.”
On Monday, he became the fifth Dutchman to receive the Hebrew University’s Scopus Award. Presenting the award was the university’s rector, Asher Cohen, who said the award is given “rarely and irregularly” and conferred once or twice a year in Europe.
Cohen said Naftaniel was recognized for his work against anti-Semitism and for Israel over the past four decades.