Economy Minister Naftali Bennett held a “reconciliation meeting” with European Parliament Speaker Martin Schulz in Brussels Wednesday, a week after walking out of the latter's Knesset address to protest remarks he made about the Palestinian issue.
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Bennett is in Brussels for the Union for the Mediterranean Ministerial Meeting on Industrial Cooperation. The meeting with Schulz had been scheduled long before the Knesset incident, but subsequent events made the encounter particularly charged. The scheduled 20-minute meeting ended up lasting 50 minutes.
Sources close to Bennett who attended the meeting said that it started out very tensely. Bennett brought up the Knesset incident on his own accord, and while he did not apologize for it - nor for the heckling directed at Schultz by his party members - Bennett did try to clarify what was behind his actions.
Bennett told Schulz that he frequently sees erroneous data being used to traduce Israel, and when he heard Schulz’s remarks about the difference in water allocations between the Palestinians and the settlements he just couldn't let it slide. “I couldn’t live with false statements so I left the hall,” he said.
After Bennett said his piece, Schulz did not press the issue further and quickly changed the subject to employment and high-tech. At some point Schulz began to talk about himself, his longstanding friendship with Israel, and his fights to block boycotts against it. After Schulz told Bennett he had recently read a book on the history of Jerusalem, the economy minister pulled out an ancient coin from the period of the Maccabees and gave it to Schulz as a personal gesture.