Spain and Gaza

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Foto: Efe

The current President of the Council of the European Union, newly reelected Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez of Spain, and the next President of the Council, Alexander De Croo of Belgium, visited Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories, and Egypt last week in order to explore the potential for a role for Europe in the current conflict.

While Mr. De Croo maintained a reserved stance, his Spanish counterpart made several statements that raised the hackles of Israeli leaders as well as citizens at home.

In the joint press conference in Gaza, Mr. Sanchez made no mention of the Hamas terrorist action in Israel on October 7th and the wanton murders and kidnappings of over 1200 Israeli civilians. 

Instead, he focused exclusively on Gazan casualties, victims of the Israel action without mentioning the fact that these victims are the result of Hamas using the population of the territory as human shields in their fight against Israel.

He concluded by announcing that Spain will call on the EU to recognize the State of Palestine and, if it refuses, then Spain will do so unilaterally (although several EU members already recognize the entity). 

The Israeli Foreign Ministry summoned the Ambassadors of both countries and castigated them for the statements made by their respective leaders. Prime Minister Netanyahu and his cabinet harshly criticized Mr. Sanchez, and, in return, the Spanish Foreign Ministry summoned the Israeli Ambassador to Madrid and dressed her down.

Spanish opposition parties and many observers criticized Sanchez for playing party politics with a sensitive international issue. Mr. Sanchez’s cabinet includes a Minister of Youth born in the Palestinian territory. She strongly and publicly supported Hamas’s terrorist action the day after it took place and is representative of the left wing of Mr. Sanchez’s ruling coalition that supports Hamas and opposes Israel.

Mr. Sanchez is also beholden to the Basque and Catalonian nationalist members of his ruling coalition who support Hamas. Hamas and the PLO have always supported ETA Basque terrorists and Catalonian separatists, and they are repaying this support by pressuring Mr. Sanchez to adopt a lenient position on Hamas. 

Mr. Sanchez’s political opponents claim that will do anything to stay in power. Indeed, catering to the pro-Hamas factions in his coalition appears to the opposition to be a question of political opportunism and not principle. 

Before the ruling Socialist Party congress, Mr. Sanchez defended his position by claiming that it was not one of political expediency but, rather, one of humanity.

The Spanish right-wing opposition Partido Popular (PP) came out strongly in defense of Israel and opposes any lengthy cease fire, believing that this will help Hamas re-arm and claim a victory. 

Hamas seeks the destruction of Israel and the disappearance of all Jews. It refuses any compromise with Israel, and its continued existence is a non-starter for Israel. 

Its attack on Israel underscored the inhumanity of this terrorist group and the evil nature of its activities.

Hamas has been protected by the United Nations Reconstruction and Works Agency (UNRWA) as underscored by recent revelations by freed Israeli hostages that some were held in the homes of UNRWA employees. 

The UN Secretary General and UNRWA remain silent as of the time of writing, and I expect that more will be revealed by returning hostages as they lose their fear of talking and reveal details of their abduction and sequestration. 

The German government, the second largest financial supporter of this UN agency, has frozen contributions to UNRWA and has made public demonstrations in support of Hamas illegal. 

Germany and Spain appear to be at opposite ends of how to handle Hamas and this division will affect the EU as it tries to strike a common position.

Is there any solution?

It is hard to tell.

Both Germany and Spain have strong right -wing opposition parties, and both support Israel’s current campaign to destroy Hamas and support Israel’s right to do so.

The incoming Dutch government of Geert Wilders is anti-Muslim and is expected to take a strong anti-Hamas position. France has passed draconian measures against anyone supporting Hamas and will deport any foreigner who does so publicly.

All significant Muslim minorities. But fear of the right-wing opposition or, in the case of the Netherlands, having a right-wing government, has given the EU a new reality – the strength of the right versus the weakness of the left.

Both countries will be tugging at the EU rope, and it remains to be seen which will win this diplomatic tug of war. 

For the time being, anti-Hamas leaders are in the driver’s seat in much of Europe. Mr. Sanchez appears to be alone in Europe, and this has many Spaniards concerned. 

Spain depends on the EU for funding as well as for maintaining its democracy in the face of a vocal extreme right-wing minority seemingly supported by the main opposition Partido Popular.

It remains to be seen how this plays out in Spain, and what influence it has on the consolidated EU position on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

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Keep reading: JFK

Edition: Estefanía Cardeña

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