The European Union’s Middle East peace envoy has reportedly filed a complaint with the Foreign Ministry that he is not being granted meetings with high-level Israeli officials.
Sven Koopmans brought up his grievances during a meeting with Aliza Bin Noun, the political director of the Foreign Ministry, Axios said.
The incident report cited a summary of the meeting, but did not say when it took place.
Unnamed Israeli officials told the website that ahead of a visit three weeks ago, Koopmans had requested meetings with Prime Minister Yair Lapid, President Isaac Herzog, and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, but was turned down on all counts.
Koopmans pointed out to Bin Noun that the last time he had met with a high-level official was six months ago with Lapid, who was foreign minister at the time.
“In every country in the region, I meet the foreign minister, but in Israel, I don’t even get a meeting with the director general of the Foreign Ministry,” Koopmans said, according to the report.
The envoy stressed to Bin Noun that without meeting Israeli leaders, he will not be able to report to EU states in preparation for the Israel-EU Association Council meeting next month.
Bin Noun brought up tweets made by Koopmans during August fighting between Israel and the Gaza Strip, noting that he had failed to mention Israel’s right to defend itself.
Deeply troubled by the deaths and dangerous escalation in and around Gaza. All need to show maximum restraint. Broader conflict, terror and bombs disastrously affect civilians in both #Gaza and #Israel. Clear need for a sustainable situation in Gaza and a perspective for peace.
— Sven Koopmans (@EUSR_Koopmans) August 6, 2022
Among other comments, Koopmans had referred to Gaza as “a prison when from time to time bombs are falling.” He defended the remark at the meeting, telling the Israeli officials present that it is his job to represent the EU in helping civilian victims, the report said.
A Foreign Ministry official told Axios that despite the exchanges, there was no link made at the meeting between Koopmans’s tweets and his difficulty scheduling meeting with Israeli leaders.
The unnamed official noted that over the past year Koopmans has met with the ministers of foreign affairs, defense and regional cooperation. In addition, he met with the director-general of the Foreign Ministry, senior Defense Ministry officials and the head of government coordinator of activities in the Palestinian territories, known by the acronym COGAT.
Both the EU mission in Israel and Koopmans declined to comment on the report.
Koopmans, a Dutch politician and diplomat, was appointed the EU’s Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process on May 1, 2021.
Last year Walla reported that Israeli officials had snubbed Koopmans during a visit he made to the country at the time.
Quoting unnamed senior Israeli officials, the report said the decision to blackball Koopmans was made over what Israel saw as EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell’s lack of support during a round of fighting against Gaza terror groups in May 2021.
An Israeli official said at the time that Jerusalem was angry with Borrell for failing to adequately condemn rocket fire from Gaza on Israel.
On October 6, Israeli and EU officials are to gather for the Association Council, which hasn’t met for over 10 years. Lapid will be at the meeting and hopes he will be joined by the leaders of all 27 member states of the EU, according to the report. In the past, the Council was attended only by foreign ministers.
The Association Council is a meeting that is meant to occur annually between Israel and the EU to cover matters of mutual concern. The last time the two sides met was in 2012, and Lapid, during his recent stint as foreign minister, made it a goal to reconvene the forum.
Israel signed an Association Agreement that defined its relationship with the EU in 1995 and ratified it in 2000. Israel canceled the Council in 2013, when the EU angered Israel by issuing new regulations according to which no Israeli body that operates or has links beyond the Green Line can receive EU funding or have any cooperation with the EU.