The European Union announced on Monday that it would not hold a Europe Day celebration in Israel, over the insistence of far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir to speak at the event.
The decision was taken after consultation with the EU's Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels and a senior official in the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said in response that this was a "slap in the face," for the government.
Ben Gvir, who was tapped to represent the government, by the cabinet secretariat in a rotation of assignments, said on Sunday, that he intends to speak at the reception. The minister had not been met by the European envoy Dimiter Tzantchev or other ambassadors representing European nations.
Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said Sunday in a Kan radio interview that Ben-Gvir had been assigned by the government secretary to attend “not as a representative of the Jewish Power party ... but to represent the government of Israel.”
"The minister will talk about the importance of the EU and Israel jointly fighting terror and will call of strengthening the cooperation and uniting around the fight against Jihad and the terrorists and will caution against financing actions taken against IDF soldiers," his office said in a statement.
European diplomats appealed to the Foreign Ministry earlier requesting the minister not be sent to represent the Israeli government, but to no avail. Ben-Gvir said he insists on attending and speaking at the reception.
"The EU delegation is looking forward to celebrating Europe DaY ON May 9, as it does every year. Regrettably, this year we have decided to cancel the diplomatic reception, as we do not want to offer a platform to someone whose views contradict the values the EU stands for." The EU's embassy in Israel said in a statement on Twitter. adding that cultural events for the Israeli public will be maintained "to celebrate with our friends and partners in Israel the strong and constructive bilateral relationship."
Ben-Gvir said in response, that the EU was behaving in undiplomatic silencing.
"It's a shame that the EU, which claims to represent multiculturalism instead practices silencing. It is an honor for me to represent the Israeli government, the heroic IDF, and the people of Israel in every forum. Real friends know how to voice criticism & how to hear it as well," he said in his own Twitter post. He went on to say that although Israel respects the EU, it runs its own government.
Steffen Seibert, Germany's envoy to Israel said he regretted the need for such action.
"I wish this hadn’t been necessary - but it was. Looking forward to celebrating Europe and the values that unite us at the cultural event," he said.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid, who has served as prime minister and foreign minister said the current coalition is responsible for a crisis with the European body after his government saw relations thrive.
Rather than continuing the positive path that added to Israel's economy and international standing, the current government is throwing us into unnecessary disputes and causing a crisis with the EU just so that Ben-Gvir could once again embarrass us," Lapid said.
Former Defense Minister Benny Gantz said the government acted irresponsibly when it assigned Ben-Gvir to the Europe Day event and blamed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the diplomatic incident that was caused.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.