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Belgian Jews expect new government will be harsh critic of Israel

October 5, 2020 at 9:32 am

Illustration picture shows a ‘static’ protest against the annexation of Palestinian territory by Israel, at the Place Trone – Troonplein, in the center of Brussels, on 24 June 2020 [ANTONY GEVAERT/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images]

A number of Belgian Jews have claimed that their country’s new coalition government will be extremely critical of Israel, the Times of Israel has reported. Belgian MPs agreed to form a seven-party coalition government last week almost 500 days after the last election.

“Israel will find that this government will try to shut down all of the little dialogue that’s left between both countries,” said Jenny Aharon, who advises Israeli officials and Jewish organisations on matters related to EU-Israel relations.

The newspaper said that Belgium is among Israel’s toughest critics in Europe over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“[The new government] does not represent a Flemish majority,” explained Aharon. “Therefore it would be inaccurate to consider its adopted anti-Israel policies as a sentiment shared by the Belgian people as a whole.”

According to the Israeli newspaper, the Belgian ambassador in Tel Aviv was summoned to the Foreign Ministry in February for a dressing down over what Israeli officials called “a systematic campaign to demonise the Jewish state.” This followed an invitation from the Belgian Ambassador at the United Nations to a pro-Palestinian activist to address the UN Security Council.

READ: Belgium votes on recognising State of Palestine, imposing sanctions on Israel 

It also reported that the Belgian parliament passed a resolution overwhelmingly in June urging the government to act to prevent Israel from annexing parts of the West Bank and to advocate for Europe-wide punitive measures against the state if it went ahead with its controversial plan.

“Yes, I am worried about Belgium’s future relations with Israel when I see what parties are included in this government,” said Michael Freilich, an MP for the New Flemish Alliance. “The left-wing Ecolo has an MP in its ranks, Simon Moutquin, who for years headed the Belgian BDS movement that promotes the boycott of Israel. Similarly, the Socialist Party recently proposed a law to recognise the State of Palestine unconditionally, thereby leaving the internationally accepted path of a negotiated settlement.”

Belgium’s likely new justice minister and deputy prime minister is Vincent Van Quickenborne, from the Open VLD party. He has been described by several sources as a radical opponent of Israel. Van Quickenborne apparently visited Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in Gaza in 2003, and earlier this year referred to Israeli ministers as the “Jewish lobby”, refusing to withdraw his tweet.