Economy Minister Naftali Bennett met Wednesday with European Parliament President Martin Schulz and other dignitaries during a visit to EU headquarters in Brussels. While talks were pleasant and constructive, Bennett reminded several European leaders that Israel refuses to be “singled out” for criticism.

Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett met with European Parliament President Martin Schulz in Brussels for conciliatory talks following last week’s explosive Knesset session.

Bennett had stormed out of Israel’s parliament after Schulz, in his February 13 Knesset address, accused Israel of denying Palestinian-Arabs full and equal access to water, quoting Palestinian claims. Schulz also demanded that Israel end the siege on Gaza.

Cooler heads prevailed on Wednesday, one week after Schulz’s speech. During the hour-long meeting in Brussels, Israeli economy minister and European Parliament president held constructive talks and agreed to work together to strengthen ties between Israel and Europe. Neither Bennett nor Schulz raised the water issue.

“Europe is Israel’s number one trade partner and we need to work to advance our ties,” Bennett said during the meeting.

For his part, Schulz told Bennett that he would always stand by Israel’s side, according to a statement released by the Israeli economy minister’s office.

While the conversation with Schulz was held in a positive atmosphere, Bennett did at one point express  concern over what he termed “the singling out” by Europe of Judea and Samaria-based Israeli businesses for economic sanctions.

“There are many conflict zones in the world and we will not accept Israel being singled out,” he declared.

Bennett met with Members of Parliament and EU officials, including EU Vice President Tajani, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Elmar Brok, EPP Secretary General Antonio Lopez-Isturiz, as well as with his Greek and British counterparts.

He also attended meetings with the Belgian Jewish community leadership and with the Egyptian delegation. Egypt’s economy minister did not attend the conference, but Bennett spoke with him by phone and they agreed to meet soon.

Following the session, Bennett gave Schulz a 2,000-year-old coin that was discovered in the ancient City of David in Jerusalem.

Author: Gidon Ben-Zvi
Date: Feb. 20, 2014