Ursula von der Leyen forced to defend controversial Israel-Hamas war stance
Keir Starmer accused of having no backbone over Israel stance
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has found herself in the midst of controversy as she defended her stance on the Israel-Hamas war.
Accusations of bias have been hurled at von der Leyen, prompting her to address the issue in an internal memo seen by Euractiv.
The controversy began when around 850 EU officials sent a letter challenging von der Leyen’s promise of “unconditional” support to Israel from the EU.
This letter, sent on Friday, October 21, raised concerns about the perceived lack of emphasis on Israel’s adherence to international humanitarian law in its response to the conflict. Other EU leaders had explicitly stressed the importance of Israel abiding by these laws.
Although von der Leyen does not directly reference the complaint letter in her memo, she expresses gratitude to colleagues who have shared their views and feelings regarding the “very difficult and emotional developments”.
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She emphasises that the EU’s primary concern is the safety and well-being of all civilians, regardless of their faith or nationality.
In her memo, von der Leyen said: “The tragic events unfolding in the Middle East are a deep source of concern and sorrow for all of us.
“At the same time, we are mourning the loss of all the innocent lives in this conflict – of all faiths and of all nationalities.”
She also assured EU staff that she is open to engaging with and listening to their concerns and suggestions.
The European Commission had previously faced criticism for an announcement made by Neighbourhood Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi, stating that “all aid” to Palestinians would be cut. However, due to widespread backlash from other EU institutions and divisions within the EU executive, the Commission was forced to backtrack on this decision.
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Von der Leyen goes on to highlight the EU’s efforts to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza, including tripling support and organising an air bridge to deliver much-needed assistance to the Palestinian people.
She acknowledges the challenging times faced by all Europeans, regardless of their religious or non-religious affiliations, citing recent Islamist attacks in Arras and Brussels. She reassures EU staff that Europe will always stand on the side of humanity and human rights.
The letter criticising von der Leyen’s stance on the Israel-Hamas war received support from officials working for EU diplomacy around the world. Von der Leyen acknowledges the difficult conditions faced by colleagues posted in delegations in the region, both in terms of security and emotions.
In her memo, von der Leyen reiterates the EU’s commitment to upholding international humanitarian law and working with the international community to provide emergency humanitarian aid to civilians affected by the war.
She emphasises the EU’s dedication to achieving stability and a lasting peace in the region, based on the two-state solution, as recently confirmed by the European Council.
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