European Parliament President Martin Schulz was surprised by the furious reaction of rightwing MKs who walked out of his speech in the Knesset on Wednesday, he told German newspaper Die Welt on Thursday.
Members of the Bayit Yehudi party, led by Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, stormed out of the speech when Schulz cited a Palestinian youth who had told him that Gazans receive a fraction of the water allocation given to Israelis. He also mentioned the blockade on Gaza, and Bennett later slammed Schulz for "lies in German."
"I was surprised and concerned by the harsh reaction, because I gave a pro-Israel speech," Schulz told the paper.
"The people who disrupted my speech belong to a party of hardliners who answer every critical word that bothers them in this way. US Secretary of State (John) Kerry was attacked by them in the same way," the president added.
The speech, which Schulz gave in German, included a pledge that there would not be a European boycott of Israel, and that the EU stood by the Jewish state's side. He avowed that Iran could not obtain nuclear weapons as that would threaten not just Israel but the entire world. However, he also warned that Israel would have to make some concessions in order to reach peace with the Palestinians.
"I was in the Knesset required to set out the position of the European Parliament," Schulz said. "Obviously I cannot just say the things that please everyone. I have to refer to contentious issues."