Abascal Meets Netanyahu Amid Spanish-Israel Diplomatic Crisis

Middle East Conflicts - May 30, 2024

The president of the Spanish Conservative VOX party (ECR), Santiago Abascal, travelled this week to the Middle East for a meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel. The meeting took place in the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem. According to VOX sources, the meeting lasted more than an hour. This is the first time both leaders met.

Joining Santiago Abascal were Jorge Martín Frías, the Director of Fundación Disenso—VOX’s influential think tank—and Hermann Tertsch, VOX member, MEP, and vice chair of the ECR Group in the European Parliament. Abascal visited Jerusalem the same day Prime Minister from the Spanish Socialist Worker’s Party (PSOE, S&D) made official Spain’s decision to recognise Palestine as an independent state, a move that has sparked a diplomatic crisis with the state of Israel. Norway and Ireland also recognised Palestinian Statehood on the same day.

The visit also comes just days after Sánchez’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Labour, Yolanda Díaz from the progressive SUMAR party, echoed the Hamas slogan “from the river to the sea,” which elicited official responses from authorities of Israel’s Foreign Ministry. Abascal rejected the official position of the Socialist Spanish Government and vowed to revert Spain’s decision to recognise Palestinian statehood “when” he becomes Prime Minister.

The VOX president also told Netanyahu that “Sánchez is not Spain,” and that he is exploiting the country’s foreign affairs agenda to “cover the political and corruption cases”, a reference to his wife’s, Begoña Gómez, alleged influence peddling which is currently being investigated by a court in Madrid, the Spanish capital. Abascal also acknowledged the Israeli’s people “firmness” in their self-defence against Hamas’ aggression.

He made clear that while Hamas holds people hostage, and while the terrorist organization is not wiped out, “nobody has the right to ask Israel to give up its self-defence operations.” Netanyahu lamented the coverage Western media outlets are giving the conflict. He also reassured Abascal that there is no intention by Israel to support separatist movements in Spain in retaliation for Spain’s recognition of Palestine as a state. Netanyahu reaffirmed his respect for Spain’s sovereignty (opposition members in Israel suggested this possibility in days past).

The Prime Minister also said that Israel will remain steadfast in its commitment to supporting anti-terrorism efforts in Europe and Spain, despite Sánchez’s hostile position toward the State of Israel. There has been no official reaction by Pedro Sánchez, or José Luis Albares, his Minister of Foreign Affairs, also a member of the Socialist Party.

Sánchez’s decision to recognise Palestine did not have a public consultation period and has divided public opinion in Spain. The Spanish premier insists this move “is not against Israel,” but stressed Netanyahu “has no peace process for Palestine.” Israel reacted by recalling Rodica Radian-Gordon, its Ambassador in Madrid.

It is the second time Israel resorts to this measure, the first one being in December after Pedro Sánchez called Israel’s operations a “humanitarian catastrophe”. The Israeli Foreign Ministers has also recalled its Ambassadors from Dublin and Oslo, after they announced their intention to recognise Palestine as an independent state.

Pedo Sánchez also visited Israel in late November and met with Palestinian authorities.  Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo joined him in that trip.

This is second visit Abascal made to Israel since the Hamas heinous October 7 attacks. He last visited in December where he met with Minister Amichai Chikli, who is also part of Israel’s war Cabinet. Chikli was in Spain two weeks ago for the VOX-ECR organized “EUROPA VIVA24” political convention.

During his December visit, Abascal also visited the city of Sderot in Southern Israel. There he saw fist handedly one of the kibbutz Hamas destroyed on October 7.