(JTA) — A major pro-Israel group working within the European Union said it was “largely happy” with the new makeup of the European Commission.
The European Friends of Israel, which has over 1,000 members from the European Parliament and parliaments of individual European countries, noted early in its statement of Sept. 10 that EU foreign policy chief “Catherine Ashton’s replacement was already agreed by EU leaders.” Jewish groups have accused Ashton of harboring bias against Israel.
Federica Mogherini of Italy will replace Ashton.
“Already active in the region, Mogherini visited Israel a week into Operation Protective Edge, holding meetings with both Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas and called for an immediate cease-fire,” EFI said in its statement. “She talked about the dangers of radicalization in the Arab world.”
Ashton faced intense criticism in Israel and by Jewish groups when she said at an event in Brussels about Palestinian refugees that the murder of three Jewish children by an Islamist in Toulouse made her think of children who died in Gaza as a result of Israeli attacks on Hamas.
The European Commission is the executive arm of the European Union, with new nominations occurring every five years.
EFI praised Cecilia Malmstrom and Corina Cretu, the commission’s ministers for trade and regional development, respectively, saying both have “been actively involved in fighting and tackling anti-Semitism, and engaging with Israel.”
Maros Sefcovic, in charge of transport and space, “is a former ambassador to Israel and knows the country, its people and politics,” and Dimitris Avramapoulos and Miguel Arias Canete — migration and home affairs and climate action and energy, respectively — “are both on the record as vocal supporters of Israel,” the group added.
Other new commissioners include Frans Timmermans of the Netherlands, who has faced criticism by pro-Israel groups for allegedly encouraging local initiatives to boycott Israel, though he has denied the claim. Timmerman, the new human rights chief, was rapped recently in the Netherlands for implying that religion was a marginal factor in the fight between Israel and the Islamist group Hamas.
The commission’s new president, Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg, earned praise in July from the American Jewish Committee for fighting anti-Semitism. AJC’s executive director, David Harris, wrote to Juncker with hopes that the incoming president would address the fight as a “high priority early in your mandate.”