Netanyahu lashes at ‘hostile’ EU, but finds friends on Bulgaria trip

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov (R) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their press conference as part of the quadrilateral Summit Greece-Bulgaria-Romania-Serbia at Euxinograd Palace in Varna, Bulgaria, 1 November 2018. [Vassil Donev/EPA/EFE]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticised the EU’s “hypocritical and hostile attitude” on Thursday (1 November) as he left for talks with four eastern European leaders in Bulgaria.

Netanyahu has regularly made such comments against the European Union, which is critical of Israel’s occupation of and settlement building in the West Bank.

To counter such criticism, he has sought alliances with sympathetic EU countries including Hungary, whose nationalist stance has been a thorn in Brussels’ side.

Meeting of minds as Netanyahu visits Orbán

Hungary welcomes Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu today (18 July) on a landmark visit that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán hopes will bolster him in his battle with George Soros and deflect charges of stoking anti-Semitism.

“I leave now to a summit of countries, and I will meet with my friends, the prime ministers of Bulgaria, Greece, Romania and the Serbian president,” Netanyahu said.

In reply, the EU delegation in Tel Aviv tweeted:

Trojan horses?

“This is not just a meeting of friends,” he added. “It is also a bloc of countries with whom I want to promote my policy, to change the hypocritical and hostile attitude of the EU.”

Netanyahu made similar comments before leaving for a Baltic summit in August.

Netanyahu in Baltics in search of European allies

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Lithuania on Thursday (23 August) for a Baltic summit saying he hoped to deepen ties with eastern EU nations as Brussels blasted Israel’s plans for fresh settlements in the West Bank.

Beyond the conflict with the Palestinians, the Israeli premier has also been eager to convince European countries to exert more pressure on Iran.

EU countries have been at odds with the United States since it pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers and reimposed sanctions — something long advocated by Israel.

In the castle of Euxinograd, close to Varna, Netanyahu made openings to Bulgaria, proposing to include Bulgaria in the Eastmed pipeline between Israel, Cyprus and Greece. Huge gas reserves have been found offshore in the economic zones of Israel and Cyprus.

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Italy, Israel, Greece and Cyprus pledged today (3 April) to move ahead with the world’s longest undersea gas pipeline from the eastern Mediterranean to southern Europe, with support from the European Union.

“Part of this gas can reach Bulgaria”, Netanyahu was quoted as saying.

The Bulgarian PM, Boyko Borisov, said that he hoped Netanyahu would follow up on previous discussions about developing production of military technology such as drones in Bulgaria. Bulgaria has inherited a huge defence industry from communist times, but lacks modern projects.

Borisov and Netanyahu have met four times over the last three months.

The visit in Bulgaria continues on Friday in a format including Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, his Romanian colleague Viorica Dăncilă and Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić. The format has been called by journalists “The Orthodox Four”.

The Romanian government, tired of EU pressure over what it considers its internal affairs, has given indications that it may recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The EU has expressed serious concern after US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as capital of Israel.

Report: Romania to break ranks with EU by moving embassy to Jerusalem

The Romanian government will follow the United States and transfer its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, the ruling Social Democrat Party (PSD) leader said Thursday (19 April).

“The decision has been taken (…), the procedures are beginning,” Liviu Dragnea told Antena …

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