SPANISH Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez conveyed a stark message to his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday, condemning the attacks on Israel by Hamas but making clear that the country’s response cannot ‘involve the deaths of innocent civilians’.
Sanchez, who was on Thursday making an official visit to Israel, has been among the European leaders to voice the strongest criticism of Israel’s response to the terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas on October 7, which saw 1,200 people lose their lives, including two Spaniards.
The Socialist Party leader, who was just last week voted back into office for a new four-year term by lawmakers in Congress, first met with Israeli President Isaac Herzog on Wednesday, before his meeting with Netanyahu.
“The whole world is shocked by the images we see daily from Gaza,” Sanchez told the Israeli PM according to Spanish press reports. “The number of Palestinians killed is truly unbearable. A clear distinction must be made between military objectives and the protection of civilians.
“Israel has the right to defend itself, but this response must respect international law,” he continued. “We must urgently stop the humanitarian catastrophe.”
Sanchez, who was making the trip with his Belgian counterpart, Alexander de Croo, also set out Spain’s position on the conflict, which includes a two-state solution, the recognition of Palestine, and a peace conference.
“The two-state solution must be implemented to defeat terrorism and ensure Israel’s security,” Sanchez said on Thursday. “We should organise an international peace conference as soon as possible. We must achieve the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. Israelis and Palestinians have the right to live in peace and safety. They can count on Spain for this.”
At home, meanwhile, opposition parties were sceptical about Sanchez’s trip to the Middle East. The spokesperson in Congress for the conservative Partido Popular, Cuca Gamarra, said that she hoped the prime minister ‘was up to the circumstances’ of the visit and that he did not ‘spark an international conflict or an external conflict between Spain and Israel’.
The leader of the leftist Podemos party, deputy and former Cabinet minister Ione Belarra, slammed Sanchez for ‘whitewashing’ Netanyahu, calling the latter a ‘war criminal’ during a press conference today.
Podemos was part of the Unidas Podemos bloc that served as the Socialists’ junior coalition partner during Sanchez’s term in office from 2020 to this year, and is currently included in the leftist Sumar alliance that is the party’s current coalition partner.
Belarra and her colleague, former minister Irene Montero, were both left out of Sanchez’s new Cabinet picks this week however, leaving Podemos with no ministers in government. This has fueled speculation that the party may break away from Sumar altogether.