EU demands Israel explain altercation with diplomats
European diplomats say Israeli soldiers manhandled them while attempting to deliver aid to Palestinians; Foreign Ministry official calls their actions a 'provocation.'
The EU ambassador in Israel called the Foreign Ministry Deputy Director-General for Europe Rafi Shutz on Saturday, to express concern over an altercation that took place between EU diplomats and Israeli soldiers in the West Bank on Friday.
Israeli soldiers manhandled European diplomats on Friday and seized tents and emergency aid they had been trying to deliver to Palestinians whose homes were demolished this week.
"What was done there by the European diplomats was a provocation," said Shutz.
The EU ambassador asked for explanations regarding the Israel Defense Forces' activity in the West Bank on Friday, particularly the violence used against a French diplomat.
Shutz stated that Israeli courts determined all Palestinian construction at the site of the incident was illegal, and thus the European diplomats were in fact engaging in illegal activity.
Shutz also explained that if the EU is interested in providing humanitarian aid for Palestinians, there are proper channels to do so, which include coordination with Israel.
Shutz stated that violence was used against the French diplomat because she slapped one of the soldiers.
"EU representatives have already contacted the Israeli authorities to demand an explanation and expressed their concern at the incident," a statement issued by the spokesmen for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva said on Saturday.
According to Shutz, Israel is considering taking legal steps against the diplomats involved in the incident, while an IDF representative said that the is looking into allegations that foreign diplomats had "abused their diplomatic privileges".
Relations between Israel and the EU have been strained over the EU's decision, announced in July, to bar financial assistance to Israeli organizations operating in the occupied territories from next year.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced that move as meddling in Israel's bilateral relations with the Palestinians. Israel retaliated by blocking the EU from aiding tens of thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank.