Foreign minister: Diplomatic relations with Israel are 'frank, open and without taboos'

Foreign minister Hadja Lahbib on Wednesday described diplomatic relations between Belgium and Israel as "frank, open and without taboos". Lahbib is on a three-day visit to Israel and the West Bank, with the first day devoted to Israel.

The day began with a visit, accompanied by Israeli Foreign minister Yisrael Katz, to the Nir Oz kibbutz - one of 22 sites attacked by the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas on 7 October.

According to Katz, Israel is not fighting Islam, only radical Islam. "You know that in Belgium too," said Katz, who made no secret of his disagreement with Belgian diplomatic positions.

Tensions rose briefly when Katz said that Gaza was currently getting what it asked for, a statement that momentarily threw Lahbib off balance. When asked about the threat of famine in Gaza, the Israeli minister refused to answer. The interview was then cut short.

'Not the place'

After visiting the site of the Nova festival, which was also attacked on 7 October, the ministers held a meeting in Sderot, the Israeli town closest to Gaza. "It was not the place to make political statements," Lahbib said afterwards about the visit to Nir Oz. "Everyone is free to do what they want, but for me it is a place of reflection. I came to listen to the suffering and the trauma. It is important to recognise the suffering of others."

"Everyone is free to do what they want, but for me it is a place of reflection. I came to listen to the suffering and the trauma"

But "one massacre cannot justify another", she said. "We agree on the ends, but not on the means." She also reiterated Belgium's demands: an immediate ceasefire, the release of hostages and the resumption of negotiations on a two-state solution.

According to Lahbib, Israeli diplomacy has promised to open new humanitarian crossings within the coming weeks.


Israel's Foreign Affairs minister Yisrael Katz and Belgian Foreign minister Hadja Lahbib © BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK

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