Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began a groundbreaking visit to Lithuania on Thursday, saying he hoped to deepen ties with eastern EU nations as Brussels blasted Israel’s illegitimate plans for fresh illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Dozens of pro-Palestine activists waved Palestinian flags and chanted that Netanyahu was not welcome while railing against Lithuania’s warm ties with Israel outside government buildings in the capital Vilnius, where he held talks with his Lithuanian counterpart Saulius Skvernelis.
Israel approved plans for more than 1,000 illegal settlement homes in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, prompting EU spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic to say that the bloc was strongly opposed to Israel’s illegal settlement policy, calling it an obstacle to peace.
The illegal settlements would further jeopardize the prospect of a contiguous and viable future Palestinian state, she said on Thursday.
Netanyahu said he wanted to achieve a balance in the European Union’s not always friendly relations with Israel before boarding his plane for the first-ever visit by an Israeli premier to Lithuania.
He will meet the leaders of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia in Vilnius on Friday during the visit, which is set to last until Sunday.
Lithuania has traditionally been one of Israel’s better friends in the European Union, a result in part of the Holocaust’s legacy and close alignment with the US.
Netanyahu has regularly sought sympathetic ears within the EU, particularly among countries that can serve as a counterweight to the critical treatment Israel often receives from western European nations over its policies in the Palestinian territories it occupies.
Source: Palestine Chronicle