At Netanyahu's Order, EU Ambassador Summoned for Reprimand Over Nation-state Bill

PM slams Emanuele Giaufret for ‘interfering with Israeli legislation,’ but a European diplomat accuses PM of hypocrisy

EU Ambassador Emanuele Giaufret with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, October 2017.
Mark Naiman / Laam

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday ordered the Foreign Ministry to summon and reprimand European Union Ambassador Emanuele Giaufret for lobbying some Israeli lawmakers against the proposed nation-state law.

The ministry’s director general, Yuval Rotem, was instructed to call in the envoy. The Prime Minister’s Office added that “additional steps” would be taken.

Israeli TV news journalist Yaron Avraham had reported that Giaufret recently approached Likud MKs and told them that if the nation-state bill were enacted, Israel’s international status could be damaged.

“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,” Netanyahu’s statement said.

A diplomat from an EU state 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 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.

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, meanwhile, warned Netanyahu on Tuesday of possible implications for Israel in the international arena if the bill is passed in its current form.

In recent years the EU has become a punching bag for many right-wing Israeli politicians, Netanyahu included. But behind the scenes, the figures and budgets show that the ties between Israel and the EU are actually growing stronger.

In a previous interview Giaufret told Haaretz that “the relations between Israel and the European Union, if you look at the facts, are very strong, diverse and growing.”

Netanyahu is keen to pass the nation-state bill before the Knesset breaks for the summer recess next week. It has already passed one vote in the Knesset and is now at the committee stage ahead of two more potential votes.