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European Parliament President Schulz (Photo: Knesset Press Office) Photo: Couresy of the Knesset
European Parliament President Schulz (Photo: Knesset Press Office) Photo: Couresy of the Knesset
 
Naftali Bennett Photo: Aner Green
Naftali Bennett Photo: Aner Green
 
 

Bennett: Criticism is legitimate; lies are not

Economy Minister speaks to Ynet about reason he and his faction members walked out of European Parliament president's address to Knesset

Moran Azulay
Published: 02.12.14, 18:14 / Israel News

After the political furor Wednesday afternoon during European Parliament President Martin Schulz's speech, which caused Economy Minster Naftali Bennett and Bayit Yehudi MKs to walk out of the plenum, Bennett told Ynet that he had left because he couldn't stand the European politician's lies.

 

 

"I came to watch the speech expecting expressions of friendship on the one hand and criticism of Israeli policy on the other, and that's okay," Bennett told Ynet. "I understand the European position differs from ours. He started with a friendly speech, spoke positively and in an emphatic fashion on the Holocaust, and he expressed regret."

 

Then, according to Bennett, the speech turned: "When he spoke about policy matters he said we are holding water from Palestinians, when I know the truth is to the contrary. I saw the ministers were bewildered."

 

European Parliament President Schulz (Photo: Knesset Press Office)
European Parliament President Schulz (Photo: Knesset Press Office)

 

During his speech, the European Parliament president said, in German, that a young Palestinian in Ramallah told him that Israelis are entitled to more water than Palestinians are. Schulz then noted that Israel is blockading Gaza, at which point Bennett stood up and told his faction members: "We're leaving the plenum."

 

Bennett took umbrage with the second "lie" told by the European Parliament president: "As if we didn't expel 8,000 (Jewish) people from their homes in Gaza and tens of thousands of rockets weren't fired on us. While the government sits silent, I cannot restrain myself. Patriotic honor is not a luxury."

 

The economy minister explained his frustration with the fact that the European Parliament president addressed the Knesset in German: "Not only did he address the Knesset in German, but he uttered lies in our faces. I urge him to apologize for two allegations. Criticism is legitimate. Lies are not. We do not have the right to remain silent in the face of these charges."

 

As for the reason he left the Knesset plenum, Bennett said: "When he said the first lie, I felt uncomfortable but I remained silent. The second lie was infuriating. I couldn't stay silent. We will not sit in the Israeli Knesset and be told that we are withholding water from Palestinians, when we know the truth. There's a line."

 

In the wake of the unusual move by the Bayit Yehudi MKs, the Knesset was thrown into a tempest as the European diplomat's speech came to a close. Ministers Uri Orbach and Limor Livnat said Schulz uttered a "bald-faced lie."

 

Former Labor chairman Shelly Yachimovich said in response: "The conduct of Bennett and the Bayit Yehudi party during Schulz's speech was embarrassing and damaging. The speech of Parliament President Schultz in the Knesset was sympathetic to Israel and full of appreciation and respect for the Zionist project."

 

She added: "He stands out among political leaders in the fight against anti-Semitism. Pouncing on him is a superfluous political maneuver; it damages Israel's standing and hurts its economy and security."

 

On the other side of the aisle, Bennett's colleagues in the Bayit Yehudi party supported the economy minister. MK Orit Strook said: "When the President of the European Parliament spits on you, you can't stay silent, wipe your face and pretend it's the rain. It was unprecedentedly audacious to stand in front of the Israeli Knesset and degrade its legislators and the Jewish people."

 

Members of the Likud also criticized the Knesset's high-profile visitor. Deputy Minister Tzipi Hotovely said: "The things Schulz said at the plenum prove that he doesn't understand a thing about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If a top European official stands to address the Knesset and speaks nonsense and falsehoods, the problem Israel faces in world opinion is not the settlement enterprise, but its hasbara ability."

 

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