The European Union delegation responded to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday after he ordered the Foreign Ministry to summon and reprimand EU ambassador Emanuele Giaufret for lobbying some Israeli lawmakers against the proposed nation-state law.
The EU began the statement by highlighting the 28 member states union's connection to a variety of Knesset members on many different issues, including legislation: "Across the world and as every diplomatic service, we engage with members from all parties in elected assemblies, including with MKs, to discuss a wide range of issues, including the legislative agenda. We do sometimes share perceptions within the EU of policy and initiatives of our partner country. This is an important part of our diplomatic work."
This isn't different from other diplomatic missions taking place around the world - including Israel - as Netanyahu does meet with international legislators, primarily the United States, to discuss their policies.
"The Jewish State bill did come up occasionally as part of these regular discussions," the statement continued.
How Israel chooses to define itself is an internal issue for Israel to decide and we respect the internal debate which is ongoing. We value Israel’s commitment to the shared values of democracy and human rights, which has characterised our long standing and fruitful relations. We in the EU would not want to see these values being put in question or even threatened."
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Democracy and equality, including equal rights for minorities, are key values that define our societies. The respect for human rights and fundamental principles are a key part of the EU-Israel partnership."
We never used derogatory language in general and certainly not to define draft bills under discussion in the Knesset," the statement concluded.
On Thursday, Netanyahu critcized the EU and its statements regarding the nation-state bill, saying “It is not enough that the EU finances the nongovernmental organizations that strive to undermine the State of Israel and finance illegal construction; it is now interfering with Israeli legislation. Apparently they do not understand that Israel is a sovereign state.”
A diplomat from an EU state, meanwhile, told Haaretz in response that the move was “hypocritical of Netanyahu, who himself interferes with legislation in other countries – the United States, for example.”
The nation-state legislation, which would have a Constitution-like status, would prioritize Jewish values over democratic ones in the state. One controversial clause would permit the establishment of communities that are segregated by religion or nationality, and was criticized earlier this week by President Reuven Rivlin.