Israeli minister storms out during speech by EU Parliament president

Israeli minister storms out during speech by EU Parliament president
European Parliament President Martin Schulz, left, addresses the Israeli Knesset. (Knesset spokesman's office)

JERUSALEM -- The Knesset is a tough room.

European Parliament President Martin Schulz was heckled during an address, in German, to Israeli lawmakers on Wednesday. When he voiced concern about unequal water distribution to Palestinians and Israel's blockade of the Gaza strip, Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett and other members of the right-wing party The Jewish Home stormed out of the room.


Bennett said afterward his party demands an apology from Schulz for quoting what he called "Palestinian lies," and he urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to do the same.

"I will not accept false preaching of morality … certainly not in German," Bennett said, according to local media reports.

Schulz is not the first person to address Israel's parliament in German, but the issue remains a sensitive one. Before Wednesday's special session, lawmaker Moshe Feiglin said he would not attend to hear the language "used to force our parents onto trains and into furnaces."

Schulz acknowledged the sensitivities in his address.

"It is not self-evident in this house to listen to a speech in German. I am aware of this and thank you for allowing it," he said.

Although born a decade after the end of World War II, Schulz said he and every German bears responsibility for the mass murder perpetrated in the name of their nation.

Schulz dedicated considerable attention in his speech to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, urging perseverance and promising that Europe would "support this long road for peace that necessitates difficult concessions on both sides."

His message was for the most part reassuring to Israelis.

He said the EU would stand by the Israelis and could deal with challenges posed by change in the region, including the Arab Spring.

He also underlined there was no official European boycott against Israel, despite public debate about targeting products from Jewish settlements in areas that Palestinians claim for a future state.

Sobelman is a news assistant in The Times' Jerusalem bureau.