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‘Disappointment’ in Brussels after Israel expels MEP on official visit to Palestine

‘Disappointment’ in Brussels after Israel expels MEP on official visit to Palestine

by host

EU leaders expressed surprise and regret Tuesday after the Israeli government barred a member of the European Parliament from entering the country on an official visit and deported her to Spain.

Ana Miranda, a Galician MEP in the Greens group, landed at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv Monday evening along with eight other lawmakers from two European Parliament delegations, one for Israel and one for Palestine. On the orders of the Israeli interior ministry, Miranda was put on a flight to Madrid.

“It’s a diplomatic conflict [and] it’s intolerable that Israel exerts control over members of a delegation that’s going to Palestine, not going to Israel,” Miranda told POLITICO.

A spokesperson for the Israeli Mission to the EU said: “The only reason that she was not allowed to enter is the issue that she tried to enter [Israel] illegally.” This referred to Miranda’s participation in a flotilla in 2015 that aimed to break the naval blockade of Gaza by Israel.

Israel has recently elected a far-right coalition government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Miranda said that while being held at the airport for three hours, a female border control guard repeatedly told her to “shut up,” and that when Miranda explained that she was an MEP, the person replied: “What is the European Parliament? It’s nothing here.”

Miranda said she did not hide her participation in the flotilla when questioned.

The four-day visit by MEPs this week will include trips to the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, where the Palestinian Authority has limited autonomy. The delegation was denied access to Gaza, Miranda said.

Parliament President Roberta Metsola described her “disappointment” on Twitter, saying she will contact the Israeli authorities to demand answers, and also convene the leaders of political groups to discuss the next steps.

Relations between Jerusalem and the Parliament have been cordial as of late, with the institution having hosted Israeli President Isaac Herzog to mark Holocaust Memorial Day in January. Metsola, a Maltese MEP from the center-right European People’s Party, visited Israel in May last year.

Miranda was given the go-ahead to enter Israel, according to emails dated February 2 and 14 between the EU’s External Action Service in Israel and the country’s foreign affairs ministry, seen in full by POLITICO. The emails stated that Manu Pineda, a Spanish far-left MEP who chairs the Palestine delegation, was barred entry, but made no mention of banning Miranda from entering. Miranda said it was a “lie” that she was still banned from entering Israel. “Otherwise they would not have authorized me [to travel],” she wrote in a follow-up message.

The spokesperson for the Israeli Mission to the EU said Pineda — who did not travel to Israel with the rest of his delegation — supports Hamas, designated as a terrorist organization in the EU. The EU’s General Court has ruled that Hamas should be removed from this list, a decision that is currently suspended pending an appeal by the Council.

Pineda told POLITICO in a statement: “I am not a Hamas supporter, no matter how much the Israeli regime insists.”

He continued: “The Israeli regime can continue to insist on its alibi of photos and Hamas. But in reality what they are doing today is preventing my work as chair of the Delegation for relations with Palestine and preventing the proper functioning of this delegation, because of my past as a human rights activist in Gaza.

“Israel has a very serious human rights problem and does not want anyone to witness the killings, forced displacements, illegal settlements and systematic arrests,” he added.

Pineda’s Left group has demanded that the Parliament take “reciprocal measures” for Israel. He said this means that no Israeli politician or diplomat should be allowed entry.

“Respect for all elected MEPs and the European Parliament is essential for good EU-Israel relations,” said Nabila Massrali, the European Commission’s spokesperson for foreign affairs. “This decision is deeply disappointing, it is also surprising.”

Gregorio Sorgi contributed reporting.

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