Europe should better appreciate Israel’s key role in Middle Eastern stability, leaders of four central European nations said on Wednesday in a joint attack with Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu on Brussels’ current policy towards the state.
The comments were the latest example of divergence between west and east Europe, where questions of national sovereignty, migration and civic freedoms have also stirred friction.
U.S. President Donald Trump lent support this month to Poland, target of criticism by the EU he has disdained, with a visit to Warsaw.
Netanyahu met the Visegrad Four leaders of Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, who backed Israel and called for an improvement in the EU’s relations with the state.
“I think Europe has to decide whether it wants to live and thrive or it wants to shrivel and disappear,” Netanyahu told the leaders of the eastern EU states behind closed doors in Budapest.
In an audio recording of the remarks obtained by Reuters, Netanyahu goes on to say: “It’s a joke. But the truth is the truth, both about Europe’s security and Europe’s economic future. And both of these concerns mandate a different policy towards Israel.”
Israel has often been criticised in Western Europe on matters such as its settlement policy. The recent closeness of Netanyahu with leaders like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been viewed with suspicion in the European Union.
Netanyahu asked the four premiers point blank to support his country in Brussels.
“If you, as the Visegrad group, can begin to advance this conception, I think this would be… beneficial to you but I think it would actually be beneficial to all of Europe.”