PM Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and European Council President Donald Tusk. (Kobi Gideon/GPO) (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Netanyahu and Tusk

Israeli leaders, in meetings with the new European Council president, urged him to steer away from diplomatic pressure and boycotts on the Jewish state, pointing out that with the deteriorating situation in the Middle East, it is “inexplicable” and “to the detriment of Europe.”

President Reuven Rivlin met at his residence in Jerusalem with new President of the European Council Donald Tusk on Tuesday.

Rivlin lauded the European Union (EU) model of cooperation, saying, “This is Israel’s dream for the Middle East. Jews, Christians and Muslims are not doomed to live together in this corner of the world; we are destined to live together.”

“Trade and industry provide a model for peace between the peoples of this region. We see it before our very eyes in areas where Israelis and Palestinians work together and learn to know one another,” said Rivlin, likely alluding to the industrial parks in Judea and Samaria, where Israelis and Palestinians work side by side.

However, he warned against the EU threat to label products originating from Judea and Samaria as a means to pressure Israel into negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.

“Peace cannot be imposed, it must come from the people,” the president stated, adding that the labeling of Israeli products by the EU “will only be a further obstacle to peace.”

Rivlin Tusk

President Reuven Rivlin (R) with new President of the European Council Donald Tusk. (Mark Neyman/GPO)

“Europe must remember its duty to itself and to the world. It must remember that the dream of different peoples living side by side was not achieved by creating barriers to trade and cooperation, but by breaking down divides and finding a common dialogue,” Rivlin stressed.

Tusk conceded that “the situation is much more complex than many people realize and that the issues are far from black and white. We must continue to work together in order to restart the negotiations.”

The two leaders also addressed the Middle East refugee crisis that now impacts on Europe.

Rivlin expressed “serious concern for the situation of those running from the wars of this region.”

“As a Jewish state and as a democratic state, I am proud of the humanitarian aid we have given to thousands upon thousands of refugees throughout the years. Israel is ready to continue this important work, and I believe could provide relief to a proportionate number of those fleeing. Whether in Europe or the Middle East, we cannot allow fundamentalists to dictate how we live, and we must continue to find a way to live together.”

Israel has offered aid to thousands of Syrian refugees who have sought care in Israel, even though Israel and Syria are officially at a state of war.

Tusk predicted that the refugee crisis was “the beginning of an exodus” and that “the current influx of refugees is “not an isolated incident” that will affect Europe’s security and economy and impact on its social issues.

Referring to the nuclear deal with Iran, Tusk stated: “I understand that while for Europeans this is seen as a breakthrough, I am aware that we have to respect your sensitivities and concerns.”

Tusk also met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“We welcome Europe. Does Europe welcome Israel?,” Netanyahu quipped, referring to the ongoing European pressure on the Jewish State.

While there are many “common challenges that we face, in this regard I find it perplexing that some in Europe are still possessed by the anti-Israeli obsession,” the Israeli leader declared.

“Nothing is happening, hundreds of thousands are being slaughtered in the Middle East, millions are being displaced, but some in Europe believe the only thing they have to do is to press, boycott and vilify the Middle East’s only true democracy, Israel, the only vanguard of liberty, the only country where human rights are respected, where there is a free press and where the values that we share with Europe serve as our map and our compass and our way of life. I find this inexplicable, but I find it also to the detriment of Europe.”

Israel serves as “guardians of civilization here in the heart of the Middle East,” Netanyahu said, urging Tusk to “steer Europe into a more productive course rather than the one that seeks to unilaterally press Israel into agreements that will endanger our very existence and therefore your very defense.”

By: Max Gelber, United with Israel