Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Avi Dichter faced sharp criticism Monday from European Parliament members in Brussels, who called him a warmonger and war criminal during a meeting of the Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Dichter spoke to the committee about terror killing of two Israelis in the Barkan Industrial Park on Sunday and condemned the funding the Palestinian Authority allocates to terrorists in Israeli prisons.
He explained the anti-Pay Slay Law that he sponsored.
Portuguese Member of European Parliament (MEP) Ana Gomes, who is a strong supporter of boycotts of Israel and has been condemned for antisemitic remarks, responded by lashing out at Dichter.
“Mr. Chairman, you said you were honored to receive Mr. Dichter, but I’m not,” Gomes said. “I’m disgusted. As head of the Shin Bet [Israel Security Agency], he masterminded the policy of targeted killings, in which many died in extrajudicial killings. He also initiated the racist nation-state bill, which I think makes Palestinian citizens of Arab origin second class citizens.”
Gomes said that, as a former diplomat, she was “trained to engage with the devil,” but that Dichter “is not interested in peace” and is “a war-monger.”
The Spanish vice chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Javier Couso Permuy, went further in criticizing Dichter and walked out of the room in protest.
“He is a war criminal who should be on trial,” Permuy said. “The man sitting next to [the committee chairman] is a war criminal who ordered the torturing of Palestinian prisoners and killing of Hamas activists and blew up citizens. I don’t want to be in the same place with a war criminal, because I’m disgusted by him, so I will leave the room.”
Slovenian MEP Ivo Vajgl was more respectful but noted, “You have not convinced me today that you wished to lead a dialogue with the Palestinians.”
British MEP Wajid Khan asked Dichter about the pending demolition of the West Bank Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar. He charged that Israel wanted to raze the shantytown to make way for the expansion of the settlements of Kfar Adumim and Ma’aleh Adumim.
“Why are you breaching so many international laws? What gives you the right to have superiority over international law while others have to follow it?,” he asked.
But he was also one of a number of parliamentarians who expressed their condolences for the Barkan killings.
A number of other MEPs spoke in support of Dichter, at the joint meeting between four members of Israel’s Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee. The next such gathering will be in Jerusalem.
British MEP Geoffrey Van Orden said, “This is parliament of 753 members. I can assure Mr. Dichter that he has many friends in this parliament. He is very welcome. He is a man with a very distinguished record. He is a gallant man in fighting terrorism over many years.”
Van Orden added that those who have criticized Dichter are “Left [wing] colleagues here who are so obsessed with a particular agenda the they cannot see the realities of life in a very difficult part of the world.”
Dutch MEP Bas Belder said, “I am sorry that my previous colleague spoke in such a way to you. I am ashamed on your behalf, Ms. Gomes.”
Dichter responded that he has been fighting terror for 47 years, and had seen all kinds of terrorism in Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Lebanon and worldwide.
“I am proud of all the fighting against terrorists,” he said. “I am very sorry about the cases when we and myself as a leader of some operations against terrorists failed to stop terrorists from killing people in Israel and neighboring countries. There is no war with no mistakes. But never in my life did I intend to cause any harm to any innocent person.”