BUDAPEST (JTA) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a European Union policy “crazy” during a closed-door meeting in Hungary, unaware that a microphone was transmitting his comments to reporters outside.
Netanyahu, speaking Wednesday with the leaders of four Central European countries, is heard criticizing an EU policy that conditions closer trade ties with Israel on progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
“The EU is the only association of countries in the world that conditions the relations with Israel, that produces technology and every area, on political conditions. The only ones! Nobody does it. It’s crazy. It’s actually crazy. There is no logic here,” said Netanyahu.
He added: “The EU is undermining its security by undermining Israel. Europe is undermining its progress by undermining its connection with Israeli innovation by a crazy attempt to create political conditions.”
Netanyahu was meeting with the leaders of Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Poland, known as the Visegrad Group.
“I think Europe has to decide if it wants to live and thrive or if it wants to shrivel and disappear. I am not very politically correct. I know that’s a shock to some of you. It’s a joke. But the truth is the truth — both about Europe’s security and Europe’s economic future. Both of these concerns mandate a different policy towards Israel,” Netanyahu also said.
The microphone was switched off after about 15 minutes, according to reports.
Netanyahu also had one-on-one meetings in downtown Budapest on Wednesday with the heads of governments of the Visegrad Group, or “V4” — Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo and Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico. He had met the previous day with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who arranged the visit of the V4 country heads.
In remarks following the meeting, Netanyahu invited the four prime ministers to visit Israel, stating “Next year in Jerusalem.” The leaders all accepted Netanyahu’s invitation.
“If Europe does not cooperate with Israel, then Europe punishes herself,” Orban said after the V4 meeting.
“Israel and Europe’s relationship is not rational, and there is no rationality in their connection. It is time to return to a normal and smooth relationship,” Orban said. “Europe should appreciate Israel’s effort in the interest of the stability of the Middle East.”
Netanyahu thanked Orbán and the other V4 prime ministers for holding the first meeting of an Israeli prime minister together with the group.