Europe will always support Israel’s right to exist | Roberta Metsola

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This week, I had the privilege of visiting Israel for the first time since I was elected President of the European Parliament in January 2022. It will not be my last visit. I wanted to arrive at the beginning of my mandate to send a signal of our willingness to engage. To underline the commitment of the European Parliament to strengthening our ties and to underline that the European Union and Israel share more than history.

I came to Jerusalem to bring Europe’s message to the people of Israel. I wanted to stress that the bonds between our peoples are deep and that the bond we share is one that was forged in the horror of our common history. A bond made in suffering and in salvation, and whose strength lies in openness, honesty, righteousness – even criticism – but a bond that has stood and will stand the test of time.

I am optimistic, but I am not blind to the challenges you face. The threats – some existential – that you face; difficulties in sustaining a vibrant democracy. It is inconceivable that Israel’s right to exist is still in question. Let’s be clear: Europe will always support Israel’s right to exist.

Peace is difficult, but in Europe we know that peace is possible. Peace with security. Peace with freedom. Peace with dignity. Peace with justice.

Peace is not easy. It must mean living with differences in the mutual respect that coexistence demands. It must mean justice. It must mean equal opportunity. It must mean parents who can see a future for their children.

It is our responsibility to ensure that we educate and counter toxic narratives. Ignorance breeds fear and mistrust. Ignorance promotes hatred. And education is the best weapon to fight prejudice, to fight extremism.

I had the honor of visiting Yad Vashem on Monday. It was a moving reminder of lives lost, of children murdered simply because their grandparents were Jewish, of memories saved forever. It pains me to say that today we see anti-Semitism on the rise. We know this is a warning sign for mankind. It’s important to all of us.

I won’t be ambiguous: to be anti-Semitic is to be anti-European.

Every day, we still witness attacks against Jews, against synagogues. Places of peace, of God, of worship, still remain targets. The European Parliament is committed to breaking the cycle, to combating anti-Semitism, to ensuring that we remember the devastation of history and that the lessons of the past are never forgotten. We have a duty to remember, even when the voice of the survivors is no longer heard.

The European Parliament understands its responsibility in this regard. The first female President of our Parliament was Simone Veil, who changed the face of Europe by wearing her tattooed serial number 7865 as a stark reminder to the world of the horror and evil she survived in Auschwitz. Our commitment is as personal as it is institutional. We will not hesitate.

My message today is about hope in peace, in healing, in the future. Hope in justice, believing in the will of the people and in the capacity of our generation to win; and to meet challenges that have eluded past generations.

It is this sense of hope, this weight of history, this conviction that drove the European Union’s response to the invasion of Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin has brought war back to Europe in an outrageous invasion of a sovereign and independent Ukraine. The very foundations of the rules-based global order have been deeply shaken.

Putin is now threatening the world with nuclear weapons. We must act together and do everything in our power to prevent Russia from using and other undemocratic actors from acquiring nuclear weapons that would cause more death and irreparable destruction.

The war in Ukraine is not a local or regional war. The impact of what is happening in Ukraine is also being felt in Israel. Since the start of the war, nearly 6 million Ukrainians have had to flee their country – some 27,000 Ukrainians have found refuge here in Israel. They follow in the footsteps of one of Israel’s great titans, Golda Meir, who was born 121 years ago this month in Kyiv.

The basis and ultimate goals of the European project are peace, democracy and freedom – central goals for the future of Europe, Israel and this region. Those who preach violence do not have the answers.

Violence was never a solution. Terrorism is never justified. People deserve to live their lives, to send their children to school, to walk the streets without fear.

The European Parliament strongly supports the Middle East peace process. We support a two-state solution, with the secure state of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security.

I know there are those who disagree, that there have been many false starts in this process, that not everyone sees peace as a goal. And I know how hard it must be to tell a mother whose child has been killed that peace is the answer. And there are too many such mothers. Too much.

But peace is the only way forward. The only way for Israelis and Palestinians to live in security and prosperity.

Progress is possible. The Abraham Accords may have seemed inconceivable until recently, but they have proven that history does not always have to repeat itself. That the cycle can actually be broken.

The European Parliament will always be a strong ally in the search for a way forward, in the search for peace, and all the resources at our disposal will be made available for this purpose.

The story of your great nation is one of hope, perseverance, faith and overcoming adversity. This is the time when Israel can lead the world not only by seeking but by discovery this elusive peace.

This article was adapted from a speech given in the Knesset on Monday, May 24, 2022.

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