President of the European Parliament [Roberta Metsola], President of the European Commission [Ursula von der Leyen], Minister [of Foreign Affairs of Spain, José Manuel Albares],  

Ladies and gentlemen, 

These are times of intense emotion when feelings are running very high.  

These are times when we must call on the voice of reason, to transcend the emotions that we all feel as a result of the tragic events that we have witnessed. 

We have all condemned the indescribable horror of the attacks suffered by Israel. Those attacks against the civilian population have left so many dead, affecting so many defenceless people at a time when they were celebrating life, but instead they found themselves facing death.  

Once again we condemn those attacks. And let us also say that Israel – of course – has the right to defend itself. It has always had this right, and anyone attacked in such a brutal way would have the right to defend themselves. But I think we can all agree that the right to defend oneself, as with all rights, has its limits. And, in this case, the limits are those set by international law and, in particular, international humanitarian law. All this is obvious and we can say it again, but repeating it will not help us move forward to make that necessary reflection, which will guide our actions.   

Yes, we condemn those terrible terrorist attacks, but we must also condemn the civilian deaths – the civilian victims – in Gaza, which now stand at 3 000. Because speaking out against one tragedy should not prevent us from speaking out against another. Extending our sympathy to the dead, the victims of terrorist attacks, should not – and does not – prevent us from also expressing our sympathy for other victims.  

In these tragic times, I think the European Union must base its response on four principles: steadfastness, humanity, consistency and a proactive political approach to this conflict. 

Being steadfast begins with a clear condemnation of Hamas, – who, as the Minister [for Foreign Affairs of Spain, José Manuel Albares] has stated – is not the Palestinian people. For us, Hamas is a terrorist organisation, and it has certainly proven this with its actions of recent days.

Hamas has been boycotting any attempt at peace. It has opposed United Nations and Arab League resolutions that would pave the way for a possible peace agreement between Israel and Palestine. Hamas wants to eradicate Israel. It does not want peace; it wants destruction. But its actions are also making it impossible for the Palestinians to achieve a just peace. They are also the victims of Hamas. And for this reason, we cannot make the Palestinian people and all the inhabitants of Gaza responsible for the terrorist actions of Hamas. 

Being steadfast also means calling for the release of the hostages. And this brings me to my second principle: humanity. Wars also have rules. Wars are horrific and what we have seen – what we have explained without yet knowing to whom we should attribute responsibility for the massacre at this hospital – is another terrible manifestation of war. But wars also have rules, which are laid down in international law. And we have said this on several occasions when talking about other conflicts: depriving people of essential supplies and cutting off their water is not compatible with the law of war. Right now, Gaza has no more water. And there are more than 3 000 dead, a quarter of whom are children. We cannot make everyone in Gaza responsible for the criminal actions of Hamas.  

The third principle is consistency. And as regards this point, I think we can all agree on what I have just said. That we reject Hamas and that we ask all sides to respect international and humanitarian law. And that these attacks against defenceless civilians, wherever they are, must stop.

We must do this in such a way that the actions of the Member States – each one of them – are consistent with the joint actions of the EU, and that the EU’s policies are consistent too. This raises the question of aid to the Palestinian Authority and the question of humanitarian support for the victims in Gaza. The decision of the President of the Commission to increase our humanitarian aid threefold is a good example of this political consistency.  

Unfortunately the humanitarian aid has to get into Gaza, but it cannot get through because all the access roads are still closed. The Egyptian Foreign Minister [Sameh Shoukry] has repeatedly called for the bombing of infrastructure to be stopped, which would allow this urgent humanitarian aid to get into Gaza.  

The fourth principle, which perhaps is the one we currently have to focus most of our political energy on, is a proactive approach to resolving the conflict. I was in Gaza when it was bombed in 2008 and I have already seen four more wars since then. And I really fear that if we don’t stop this cycle of violence, it will happen again in another four years.  

We have to address the conflict between Israel and Palestine, because peace between the Arab countries and Israel, which is good news, does not automatically bring peace between Israel and Palestine, which must also be achieved. As an Israeli reservist who was being drafted told the press: ‘The strongest army cannot protect the country the way peace does’. As long as there is no peace, there will be no army strong enough to guarantee Israel’s peace.  

But peace will not come by itself; it has to be built. In the international community, which we are part of, we recognise that we did not do everything that we should have done to implement in full the Oslo Accords, which are now 30 years old. Every day we call for a two-state solution, but as the Palestinian representative told me at the United Nations during the General Assembly: ‘But, apart from calling for it, what are you actually doing to get it?’  

Since Oslo, the number of Israeli settlers and occupied territories has multiplied threefold, while the land making up a possible Palestinian state has been reduced and cut back into a labyrinth of areas that are not interconnected. 

Yet, however distant and difficult this solution may seem, it is the only one we have. Because what really is the alternative? If there aren’t two states, there can only be one, and how would people live within that state? Under what conditions would the two sides live? If we only have one solution, we must put all our political energy – which Europe has in abundance – into achieving it. 

It is not enough to normalise Israel’s relations with the Arab countries. Perhaps Hamas’s attacks were intended to provoke an Israeli reaction that would make it impossible to normalise relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Perhaps this was one of its strategic objectives. Its action was not total madness. Perhaps there was also an underlying strategy to prevent any progress towards peace. 

We have worked with our Special Representative for the Middle East, Sven Koopmans, and with Jordan, Egypt, the Arab League and Saudi Arabia, to launch – or rather relaunch – a process that can lead to this two-state solution. We need to recalibrate and step up our efforts. At the United Nations, we brought together 60 countries, and all of them, or almost all of them, supported this solution. 

Here today, we undertake – and this would be the best way to honour the dead on both sides – to build peace between them. This can only be done through a political framework that has already been agreed, which is already set out in United Nations resolutions, and which needs the political impetus that Europe is also in a position to give it. 

Today, at the United Nations Security Council, we will continue to discuss a resolution put forward yesterday by Brazil, the voting on which was postponed until today. What we vote for in the Security Council and how we communicate our political position in this conflict will determine the role that Europe will play in the world for many years to come. 

This morning I heard the voice of the al-Azhar mosque in Cairo. It made me very worried, because, unfortunately, this conflict is turning into a conflict between the Muslim world and the Christian world, which is something that we simply cannot allow. Because the safety of our streets depends on it. And the global geopolitical balance also depends on it. We must make a huge effort to ensure that this does not happen, to ensure that this conflict does not spread beyond the border with Lebanon.  

Yesterday I spoke to the Iranian Foreign Minister [Hossein Amir-Abdollahian], as I have spoken with so many other ministers with whom I have been in touch permanently since we reached an agreement in Oman in a joint communication  between the countries of the Gulf and the countries of the EU setting out the fundamental steps that I believe should guide our actions. That’s right: steadfastness, humanity, consistency and the political will to get out of this situation and build a lasting peace.  

Thank you very much. 

Link to video (starting from 13:21):

Closing remarks

Thank you, Mr President. Thank you to all the members that have participated in this debate.

Ladies and gentlemen, a short time ago – a few weeks ago in fact – I was in Babi Yar. Babi Yar is a neighbourhood not far from Kyiv, in Ukraine, where in 1941 the Nazis shot 33 771 Jews. The Nazis took them there, making them believe that they would then travel to Palestine, and when they got there, they shot them. They joined the 100 000 other victims of Nazi oppression during the occupation of Ukraine.

I took a moment to pay tribute together with the Rabbi who is in charge of keeping the flame of remembrance alive. I told him what I thought: nothing is more hateful to me than to kill a human being simply because he or she belongs to a different ethnic group or religion. Whether you are a Jew, a Muslim or a Christian, we are all human beings and in Europe, we have made this one of our raisons d’être: rejecting what the Holocaust was – that dramatic event still present in our minds, and at times in our bad consciences. Because yes, it was us: it was some of us.

In Babi Yar that night, acknowledging our heavy burden of blame with respect to the Jewish people was also a way of showing our support for the existence of Israel. I say this to all of those who may think that, when one tragedy is as reprehensible to me as another, behind the rejection of the two tragedies there lies a kind of distancing with regard to the suffering of the people of Israel, now and in the past.

What has happened in Israel these past few days has been a terrible shock for the people of Israel. Terrible. The figures are clear: 1 300 dead in a single day. This is the highest death toll that Israel has suffered since the second Intifada, in 2000. 1 300 people dead: if that figure is brought into proportion with the population of France, it would be the equivalent of 10 000 dead. Let us look at things in terms of proportion in order to understand the gravity of the situation.

Until now, Israel had not experienced such severe trauma for a very long time. This is one of the darkest moments in the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Unfortunately, it opens a new phase in this conflict. It could be said that we are entering a new – a fifth – phase in this conflict, which dates back to when there were two competing national projects, Palestine and the Jewish State, at the beginning of the 1900s.

Then, the second phase consisted of the clashes during the British Protectorate up until 1947. The third phase was the conventional wars between Israel and the Arab countries between 1947 and 1987. The fourth phase of the tragedy brought the conflict back to Palestine: the Intifadas, the uprisings, the negotiations between Fatah [Yasser Arafat] and [Yitzhak] Rabin – the Oslo Accords.

We are now entering a fifth phase that may turn out to be darker than all the previous ones if the international community does not halt the conflict. The international community must halt it, as it was the international community which laid down the contours of the conflict. From 1917, with the United Nations – sorry, it was called the League of Nations back then – until the vote in the United Nations to divide the territory of Palestine in 1947, it was the international community which laid down the contours of the conflict by drawing the borders and, under (United Nations) Security Council resolutions, dictated what had to be done and what could not be done. And therefore it is in international law that we find the only source of a common language enabling us to deal with the conflict. Because the first thing we need is a common language, otherwise any kind of dialogue becomes impossible.

We have learnt from history that the most difficult decisions are always taken when we are on the edge of the abyss. I believe that is where we are now: on the edge of the abyss. When I hear Muslim religious authorities speaking the language of interreligious conflict and explicitly stating that Europe is a party to this conflict, I feel that the storm clouds are looming, and it is time to stop.

You have seen today how our language is tinged with emotion. We must endeavour to go beyond our emotions, otherwise we will be useless when it comes to resolving this conflict.

Listen: do not add to the horror. Social media are full of fake videos and descriptions of what has happened. We are engaged in intensive work to decode what is nothing more than information manipulation.

Do not add to the horror. Do not talk about decapitated babies because this has not been confirmed, and even the Israeli army have said that they found no sign that this actually happened. Major leaders of the Western world have had to backtrack. There is in fact no need to add to the horror; there is enough already with what has been discovered, which we cannot refute. To kill 1 300 people in 24 hours means cold-bloodedly seeking them out where they are hiding. Do not add to what has already happened – there is no need. We have enough on our plate already.

But in the same way that we can say that it is a terrible tragedy to kill 270 young people who were celebrating life, can we not also say that it is an equally reprehensible tragedy that 700 or 800 children have died in the bombing of Gaza? Can we not say both things? Why should regretting one tragedy not leave me with enough moral strength to regret the other?

On the contrary, it does leave me with enough moral strength. The moral strength to condemn one thing also allows me to condemn another, equal thing carried out in another place, by other people, perhaps closer to me. If we do not understand this, we will be useless when it comes to resolving the conflict.

For this same reason, I want to ask you to stop saying that we are financing Hamas terrorism. Stop saying that our money is paying part of the social welfare funds that go to Palestinians convicted of crimes. This is not true. We have a system to monitor where our funds go – a system called Pegasus, which works well and monitors where our resources go. We are ready to review it, and the Commission will do this. But stop taking for granted something that is not true, because otherwise all you are doing is stirring up trouble between people.

Also, stop criticising me because I have not yet gone to Israel. I think that I have been one of the European political leaders who has done the most to bring the European Union and Israel closer together. I was the driving force behind the idea of holding a meeting of the EU-Israel Association Council – meetings had not been held for many years, almost ten years. I did this because I thought it was necessary and possible to do it with the Israeli Government at this time.

I have spoken several times with Israeli Ministers of Foreign Affairs. I have invited them to Brussels and they have come – both from the previous and the current governments.

I have taken measures to relaunch the peace process, at the United Nations, during the UN General Assembly to be precise. And I did intend to go to Israel – we had even fixed a date. I still hope to be able to go, but for me there is one fundamental condition: if I visit Israel, I must also visit Ramallah. Unfortunately, the current tensions and the events we are experiencing have made this impossible.

However, you do not solve the problems simply by going there. I am not criticising anyone who has gone there. I am not going to allow myself to be dragged into any kind of interinstitutional debate, because what we need is unity on something that we all agree on. Which is that Hamas is a terrorist organisation that must be fought, that Israel has the right to defend itself, and that this right of defence must be carried out in accordance with international humanitarian law. That gives us enough to work on together. If we accept that premise, it is already enough to enable us to work all together.

I hope to be able to visit Israel. But I must reiterate what the Member States are saying, and what they have agreed to state in a joint declaration with the Gulf countries: suspending water supplies to a population under siege is a breach of international law. We cannot accept that: we cannot accept that this should happen, and this is something that must be taken into account when looking at a conflict.

I recommend that you read the Practical Guide to Humanitarian Law, which clearly states that depriving a group of human beings under siege of basic water supplies is contrary to international law, whether it is in Ukraine or in Gaza.

If we are not capable of saying this in these two places, then we lack the moral authority necessary to make our voice heard.

Thank you.

Link to the video (starting from 7:01):