SPAIN’S foreign minister, Jose Manuel Albares, has responded to criticism of his caretaker government by the Israeli embassy in Madrid by calling it an ‘unfriendly gesture’.
The controversy was sparked on Monday when the embassy issued a press release in which it ‘energetically condemned’ recent statements made by ‘some members of the Spanish government’.
“It is deeply worrying that, at a time when Israel is in mourning for the loss of innocent victims in the barbaric attack carried out by Hamas on October 7, in which more than 1,300 men, women and children were brutally murdered, and when more than 150 civilians, including children, women and the elderly are still being held captive by the Hamas terrorists in Gaza, certain elements within the Spanish government have opted to align themselves with this Isis-style terrorism,” the statement read.
While the embassy did not name any names nor political parties, the new leftist alliance Sumar – which is led by the caretaker deputy prime minister, Yolanda Diaz – took part in a major demonstration in Madrid on Sunday in support of the people of Palestine.
Leftist Podemos and the United Left party were also present at the protest. Those two parties now form part of Sumar, but they were also the junior coalition partner of the last Socialist Party-led administration, which came into power in January 2020.
The leader of Podemos, Ione Belarra, who is also the caretaker Social Rights minister, was the only member of the Cabinet who was actually present at the protest on Sunday.
On Saturday Belarra called on her Socialist Party colleagues to begin a joint effort to ensure that ‘war crimes committed in Palestine’ by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be investigated by the International Criminal Court.
For her part, Yolanda Diaz last week slammed what she described as the ‘Israeli apartheid’ against the Palestinian people.
On Monday, the Spanish Foreign Ministry released a statement in which it ‘emphatically rejected’ what it called the ‘falsehoods’ issued by the Israeli embassy, adding that it ‘did not accept unfounded insinuations’ against members of the caretaker government.
“Any political leader can freely express positions as the representative of a political party in a full democracy such as Spain,” the ministry stated.
On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Albares said after the Cabinet meeting that he had called Israel’s ambassador, Rodica Radian-Gordon, to convey the ‘acute displeasure’ prompted by the statement.
But he also sought to calm the waters and denied that there was any kind of diplomatic spat between the two countries.
He also made clear that ‘not one cent from the European Union nor from Spanish aid would end up in the hands of the terrorist organisation Hamas’, in comments reported by newspaper El Pais.
Podemos leader Ione Belarra, meanwhile, ramped up her criticism of Israel on Tuesday after Albares made his comments.
“There is no room for equidistance,” she said on Catalunya Radio after the station had interviewed the Israeli ambassador in Spain. “At this time we need to clearly say that Israel is an occupying state.”
Speaking later on Catalan television channel TV3, she added: “We cannot allow the planned genocide that the state of Israel is carrying out against the Palestinian people.”
For his part, caretaker Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Friday condemned what he described as Hamas’s ‘terrorist attack’ and also called on Israel to respect ‘international humanitarian law’ with regard to its military response in the Gaza Strip.
“This Spain loves peace, so we categorically and without any ambiguity condemn the terrorist attack by Hamas in Israel and also the deaths of Israelis, and demand the urgent release of all those Israeli hostages and captives,” he said at a party rally in Merida on Friday.
“And with the same forcefulness we say that, of course, Israel has the right to defend itself, but always within the international humanitarian law that does not materially endorse the evacuation of Palestinians from Gaza, as the United Nations says,” he added.
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