National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir’s planned attendance at the E.U.’s Europe Day commemoration on behalf of the Israeli government is causing a stir among the bloc’s member states as they debate how to handle the firebrand nationalist politician.
The European Union has notified Israeli officials it is considering canceling speeches at Tuesday’s event in Tel Aviv celebrating the May 9, 1950, Schuman Declaration that led to the creation of the E.U.’s precursor the European Coal and Steel Community.
The leader of the Otzma Yehudit Party plans to deliver a speech as the representative of the Israeli government. European leaders were to meet on Monday to make a final decision on how to address his participation, including possibly boycotting him.
Ben-Gvir said on Sunday that he intends to speak at the annual event that he volunteered to attend since Foreign Minister Eli Cohen is in India, although a formal notice from the Foreign Ministry has not been submitted to the E.U.
“We do not endorse the political views of Ben-Gvir or those of his party. In fact, many of his previous statements and views contradict the values the European Union stands for,” an E.U. Embassy spokesperson said on Saturday.
“The minister believes that even if E.U. representatives ‘do not endorse [his] political views,’ as they said in their statement, they understand very well that Israel is a democracy, and in a democracy one can hear different views,” Ben-Gvir’s office said in a statement.
The minister will address joint efforts with the bloc to combat terrorism and jihadism, among other issues, including telling them that it is “appropriate that the countries not finance projects against IDF soldiers and Israeli residents,” the statement continued.
Poland and Hungary oppose a statement from the E.U. against Ben-Gvir’s participation in the Europe Day event. A senior political official in Warsaw told Israel Hayom that they are working on convincing other countries that this statement against Ben-Gvir would harm E.U.-Israel relations.
The Polish official said that the statement would go against Article 41 of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which states that signatories should not interfere in the internal affairs of the host country.
Update: On Monday, the EU decided they would cancel the reception in Tel Aviv so that Minister Itamar Ben Gvir would not be able to address them.
In response, Ben Gvir stated [Translated]: “It is a shame that the European Union, which claims to represent the values of democracy and multiculturalism, practices undiplomatic gagging. It is an honor and a privilege for me to represent the Israeli government, the heroic IDF soldiers and the people of Israel in every forum, friends know how to voice criticism and true friends also know how to hear such.”