Influential European parliamentarian backing anti-Israel motion caught in ‘Qatargate’

While claiming innocence in the money-for-influence scandal, Maria Arena, chair of the subcommittee on human rights, has stepped down from her duties.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The chairperson of the European Parliament’s subcommittee on human rights who is backing an anti-Israel motion stepped down from her post after being caught up in the growing influence-peddling scandal in Brussels, whose main actor has been fingered as Qatar.

Belgian MEP Maria Arena’s office was sealed by the country’s police on Friday, several news agencies reported. She denied any connection to the scandal, saying that suspicion had fallen on her assistant for prior, unrelated work that was done for an NGO under investigation.

In all, police confiscated computer data from 10 assistants’ offices on Monday.

Arena voluntarily vacated her position, as did several other Socialist lawmakers who are either under investigation themselves or who have assistants who are being probed.

“Following the revelations of suspicion of corruption linked to Qatar and the European Parliament, and the search of one of my assistants in the framework of this affair, I have decided that temporarily I will no longer preside over meetings of the Human Rights Committee,” Arena tweeted.

The human rights subcommittee had been debating various versions of a resolution highly critical of Israel, calling on its nascent coalition not to expand settlements in Judea and Samaria and backing the two-state solution, in reaction to the Israeli right wing’s election victory last month.

Read  EU envoy: ‘No such thing as Area A and B, it’s all Palestine’

A source familiar with the discussions told Israel Hayom that considering the ongoing corruption probe, “perhaps it would be inappropriate to have these measures stay on the subcommittee’s docket.”

The source also suggested that there should be an investigation “if there are tainted motives behind the resolutions that have come out of the subcommittee.”

Qatar has no diplomatic relations with Israel and is a strong supporter of Hamas, sending hundreds of millions of dollars annually to the terror organization that rules the Gaza Strip.

Qatar has yet to be named officially as the country trying to buy its way into the favor of EU legislators. On Friday, police arrested the European parliament’s vice president, Eva Kaili and three others on charges of corruption,  participation in a criminal group and money laundering. Kaili was immediately stripped of her duties and suspended by her Greek party.

Speaking at the last plenary session of the year on Monday, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola gave no names when she said the legislature and the continent’s democracies were “under attack” by “malign actors, linked to autocratic third countries.”

These countries,” she added, “have allegedly weaponized NGOs, unions, individuals, assistants and MEPs in an effort to subdue our [parliamentary] processes.”

Read  Ben-Gvir to address European Union event - despite EU's opposition

According to European media, the region’s parliament has suspended its work with Qatar, although Doha has strongly denied any involvement in the scheme.

“Any allegation of misconduct on the part of the State of Qatar testifies to serious misinformation,” a Qatari government official told AFP on Saturday.

The moniker “Qatargate” is already being used openly in the media in connection with the scandal.