TEL AVIV (JTA) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for a “reset” in relations with the European Union, accusing it, and Sweden in particular, of unfairly singling out Israel.
In addition to attacking Brussels for its decision to label West Bank settlement goods, Netanyahu on Thursday for the first time publicly accused the EU of building “illegal constructions” in the West Bank in an alleged bid to create “political realities” there, The Times of Israel reported.
“We have to reset our relationship with the European Union. I hope we can do this on better terms,” the prime minister told foreign journalists in Jerusalem on Thursday. He added that he had recently discussed the tense bilateral ties with the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini. “I said we have to figure out a way to resolve and set things on the right course,” he said.
“There is a natural tendency in the EU establishment to single out Israel and treat it in ways that other countries are not being dealt with, and especially other democracies,” he said. “And I think it’s wrong. I think it should be corrected.”
In November, the European Commission published binding guidelines for all member states, requiring separate labeling for products made in what Brussels considers illegal settlements in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.
Netanyahu made specific references to recent statements by Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom, who this week called for a thorough probe into Israelis who killed Palestinian attackers during the recent terror wave.
“I think what the Swedish foreign minister said is outrageous. I think it’s immoral. It’s unjust, and just wrong,” said Netanyahu. Several dozen people protested her remarks Friday at a demonstration outside Sweden’s embassy in Israel.
Separately, a group of left-wing Israeli ex-politicians and former diplomats encouraged the European Parliament to take steps that differentiate between Israel and the West Bank in a letter they sent to 751 lawmakers in Brussels, Israel’s Makor Rishon daily reported Friday. Former lawmakers Avrum Burg and Yael Dayan, as well as Alon Liel, a former director general of the Israeli foreign ministry, sent the letter last month with the signatures of 550 Israeli scientists and thinkers.