Ben-Gvir to address European Union event – despite EU’s opposition

“Israel is a democracy, and in a democracy, one can hear different views,” Ben-Gvir’s spokesman said.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Public Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir is planning to speak at an event hosted by the European Union delegation to Israel, despite hints from EU officials that he is not welcome at the gathering.

The EU delegation is slated to hold a Europe Day celebration, which celebrates peace and unity between countries on the continent, on Tuesday. Each year, the Israeli government sends an official representative, usually a coalition lawmaker, to the event.

But after learning that Ben-Gvir will be attending on behalf of the Israeli government, several EU officials and ambassadors have pushed back, with public statements indicating that he is unwanted at the event.

In a statement on Saturday, the EU delegation said, “We do not endorse the political views of Minister Ben-Gvir or those of his party. In fact, many of his previous statements and views contradict the values the European Union stands for.”

Strangely, the statement added that “we have not yet received a formal notice from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding” who would be attending on behalf of the Israeli government, perhaps in an attempt to give the coalition the opportunity to send a different representative.

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Ben-Gvir appeared to be unruffled by the statement, releasing a response late Saturday evening.

“The minister believes that even if EU representatives ‘do not endorse [his] political views,’ as they said in their statement, they understand very well that Israel is a democracy, and in a democracy, one can hear different views,” Ben-Gvir’s spokesman said.

“Among other things, the minister will speak about the importance of the joint war on terrorism, will congratulate the European countries, will call for the strengthening of cooperation and will emphasize the need to unite around the fight against jihad and terrorists, and at the same time will point out that it is appropriate that the countries not finance projects against IDF soldiers and Israeli residents,” the statement added.

A European Union official told Haaretz that some officials may boycott the celebration should Ben-Gvir attend and speak.

“I will not be surprised if there are diplomats who would prefer to avoid the Israeli minister or not come to the event,” they said.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid slammed the lawmaker and said that sending him to the event was “a severe professional mistake” and would “damage” strengthening relations with European countries.

“Why should we endanger that? Ben-Gvir is not a legitimate person in the international community – and not really in Israel either – and sometimes you need to be smart and right and just send someone else,” Lapid said.

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Lapid’s statement is notable as Ben-Gvir’s alliance with the Religious Zionist Party received the third-highest number of votes in the November 2022 elections, and he serves as a minister within Netanyahu’s cabinet.

It’s unclear on what basis Lapid was arguing that Ben-Gvir is not considered a legitimate politician in Israel.