Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said European Parliament President Martin Schulz “suffers from the same selective listening as many Europeans” in repeating a Palestinian claim that they use 17 liters of water for every 70 Israel uses per capita, adding that “even the Palestinian Water Authority says the discrepancy is much smaller.”
“Europeans jump to criticize Israel without checking facts”, Netanyahu said.
In a speech to the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, on Wednesday, Schulz referred to his visit in Monday in Ramallah where he met with young people.
He said: “One of the questions these young people asked me which I found most moving – although I could not check the exact figures – was this: how can it be that an Israeli is allowed to use 70 litres of water per day, but a Palestinian only 17?”.
Schulz’s remark and criticism of Israel’s blockade of Gaza sparked the ire of lawmakers from the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party led by Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, who walked out from the plenum, yelling “Palestinians are liars” and “shame.”
Minister Bennett called for Schulz to apologize for lying.
“Schulz admitted that he didn’t check if what he said is true, but he still blamed us. People accept any attack on Israel without checking it. They plug their ears,” Netanyahu said.
“Water isn’t a good topic for attacking Israel,” he added.
According to Water Authority data, West Bank Palestinians had 127,000 liters of available fresh water per capita per year in 2009, while Israelis had 154,000 liters of water per capita per year. Of the available fresh water in 2009, the Water Authority said that the Palestinians consumed 95,000 liters per capita per year, while Israelis consumed 137,000 liters per capita per year in 2009.
The Authority also maintains that Palestinian water availability is lower than it could be due the massive amounts of water losses occurring in the Palestinian water infrastructure, due to leaking pipes and water theft. All in all, the Water Authority estimates that water losses in West Bank Palestinian infrastructure amount to about 33%.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein gave Schulz the benefit of the doubt, saying that someone must have misled him.
“The European Parliament is an important guest and his speech wasn’t given to a censor. No one knew what he was going to say,” Edelstein stated.
“Our president (Shimon Peres) spoke to the European Parliament and no seats were empty and no one walked out. They found other ways [to criticize him]. I’m not here to educate anyone, but we should think about that.”
In his speech, Schulz also said he understands the sensitivity of allowing him to speak in the Knesset in German, adding that his generation has the responsibility to make sure the atrocities perpetrated by his country to the Jewish people will never happen again.
He spoke out against anti-Semitism in Europe. “We are all witnessing with dismay a return to ways of thinking which we thought had long been consigned to history, in the form of anti-Semitism, ultra-nationalism and populism. This merely strengthens me in my conviction that we must stand firm together – every one of us – against all those who stir up hatred.”
He said the European Union ‘’will always stand by the State of Israel.” “Israel is a hope that came true for the Jewish people to live freely in its land. The dream became reality through courageous people,” Schulz stated.
“Israeli society is built on the values of freedom and democracy, which tie it to Europe. Israel is a strong democracy with a modern economy. You made the desert bloom and Israeli research leads in many areas.”
In addition, Schulz said Iran cannot be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons, but the way to prevent that form happening is via diplomacy.
On Tuesday, addressing the Hebrew University of Jerusalem where he received an honorary doctorate, the President of the European Parliament, who is said to be a candidate for the post of European Commission President after the May EU elections, spoke out against the boycott of Israel.
“There is no EU boycott against Israel,” he said as he was responding to questions about the European Parliament’s approach to financial boycott initiatives against Israel.
“In the European Parliament there is for sure not a majority for a potential boycott,” he said, adding that “there is an open debate if some of the products produced in occupied territories of settlements could have access to the European Union market in compatibility with European Union rules.”
He continued, “My personal view is that a boycott is not a solution for anything. And therefore as president of the European Parliament I was strongly in favor, for example, of upgrading of the scientific cooperation between the European Union and Israel.”
He added: “Boycott is a very tough word. To boycott means to completely block cooperation and trade between countries. We are not speaking about such a boycott. There is no concrete position of the European Union or its institutions for a boycott of Israeli products.”