EU ambassador to Israel: 'Death penalty will not advance us'
Ambassador Giaufret says regarding death penalty bill capital punishment is violation of human dignity, human rights while also condemning terror attacks on Israelis; Giaufret also lauds increasing EU trade with Israel, stresses that EU donations to PA, UNRWA must not fund incitement, terror.
The European Union's Ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret expressed his disapproval for the death penalty for terrorists bill in a Ynet studio interview Sunday, saying, "Our position is that the death penalty is in violation of human dignity and human rights." Last week, the European Union (EU) released a statement saying that the death penalty was inhumane.
"We did not attack anyone," said Giaufret. "All EU countries abolished the death penalty, in fact, in order to join the EU, a country must abolish the death penalty. It is in the European Union's European Convention on Human Rights."
Pressed on the inhumanity of those killing Israelis in the streets, the ambassador responded: "Definitely, it is inhumane to carry out terror attacks against civilians and those must be condemned. We consistently condemn them; we find any terror attack unacceptable. The question is what is the solution. We do not believe that the death penalty is conducive to progress. It is a mutual value of ours on which the EU disagrees with Israel and we want to make our stance clear."
The EU's stance is unpopular among Israelis, but the ambassador insisted that it did not make the EU irrelevant. "Israeli exports to the EU during 2017 increased by 20 percent. The Union is the primary export market for Israeli products. 35 percent of Israeli production, $16 billion, goes to Europe—and it is increasing," said Giaufret.
The matter of UNRWA funding
Ambassador Giaufret also addressed President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. "Nobody can deny the deep connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem: a connection rooted in history, religion and emotions. It is not going anywhere," he said.
"Jerusalem is very important to the three monotheistic religions. It is important to the Palestinians and the Arab world as well. Jerusalem is a very sensitive issue… and we believe that the way to move forward towards a solution is through bilateral negotiations. That is why we differ in our stance on Jerusalem," Giaufret added.
When confronted with the EU's lack of supervision over the funding it gives to organizations such as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), the ambassador responded: "We are big sponsors of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and UNRWA and expend much effort to ensure that our donations reach the right place. It is important that the funds given to the PA are used to fund democratic, transparent, institutions that do not contribute to incitement or terror. We do the same with UNRWA."
The EU ambassador condemned the rockets fired at Israeli civilians from Gaza but stressed that deterioration of the situation needed to be avoided.
On the UNRWA topic, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented on the Trump administration's decision to freeze funding for UNRWA during a Cabinet meeting Sunday morning. "I fully agree with President Trump's criticism of UNRWA, which exacerbates the Palestinian refugee's problem," Netanyahu said. "UNRWA must cease to exist. It is an organization that was established for Palestinian refugees alone while there is another organization for all other refugees in the world."
The prime minister continued: "The absurdity must stop. I recommended that assistance funds should be gradually transferred to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, with clear criteria for supporting genuine refugees."
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zohari issued a response: "The American decision to freeze funding for UNRWA is intended to destroy the Palestinian right of return. The decision is part of an American plan to deny the national rights of the Palestinians and completes Trump's decision on Jerusalem."