18 Oct, 2023 @ 14:35
2 mins read

Spain’s social rights minister Ione Belarra doubles down on criticism of Israel, calling on PM to suspend relations

Podemos leader Ione Belarra
LaPresse via ZUMA Press

SPAIN’S caretaker Social Rights Minister Ione Belarra on Wednesday stepped up her criticism of Israel, just days after the country’s embassy in Madrid issued a statement accusing some members of the Spanish government of ‘aligning themselves with Isis-style terrorism’. 

The politician, who is also the head of the leftist Podemos party, said during a television interview on the Telecinco channel that she was going to call on the acting prime minister, Pedro Sanchez of the Socialist Party, to suspend Spain’s relations with Israel as well as for ‘urgent’ economic sanctions to be applied by the European Union over what she called the country’s ‘planned genocide’ of the Palestinian people. 

“I feel that it is urgent and that Spain could do a lot more,” Belarra said during the interview, which was reported by news agency Europa Press. 

She went on to claim that Israel is taking decisions that are aimed at ‘exterminating’ the Palestinians in the wake of the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, laying the blame for the attacks on Gaza squarely with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

Belarra also claimed that she had not been approached by the Socialists with any instructions to tone down her comments about the conflict. 

Politician Ione Belarra
LaPresse via ZUMA Press

Podemos was part of the leftist Unidas Podemos bloc that served as the junior partner to the Socialists in a coalition government formed in January 2020. 

The party has since been absorbed by the new leftist bloc Sumar, which is expected to be the junior partner in a new coalition administration led by Pedro Sanchez, assuming he can find the support of lawmakers in Congress to form a government in the wake of the inconclusive July 23 general election. 

The statement released by the Israeli embassy on Monday did not name any names nor political parties, but 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. 

Podemos and the United Left party were also present at the protest, with Belarra the only member of the caretaker Cabinet who was actually there in person. 

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. 

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 Jose Manuel 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.

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Simon Hunter

Simon Hunter has been living in Madrid since the year 2000 and has worked as a journalist and translator practically since he arrived. For 16 years he was at the English Edition of Spanish daily EL PAÍS, editing the site from 2014 to 2022, and is currently one of the Spain reporters at The Times. He is also a voice actor, and can be heard telling passengers to "mind the gap" on Spain's AVLO high-speed trains.

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