Israel to Reverse Course, Will Issue Statement on Catalonia, Report Says

YERUSHALAYIM -
A portrait of sacked Catalan President Carles Puigdemont is seen inside the Generalitat Palace, the Catalan regional government headquarters, in Barcelona, Spain. (Reuters/Yves Herman)

After further consideration, Israel has decided to accede to a request by Spain that it issue a statement of disapproval of the attempts by Catalonia to declare independence. The decision, made after meetings between top diplomats and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Tuesday night, reverses the previous position of the government, that it would not issue the statement, the NRG news site said.

The reason for the change is likely due to diplomatic pressure, the report said, with Israel not wishing to sacrifice its “credits” in the international community on behalf of what it believes is a lost cause. No countries have recognized Catalan independence, and Catalan President Carles Puigdemon, now wanted on sedition charges, has fled the country for Brussels. The United States has declared that it opposes the move, calling Catalonia an “integral part of Spain.” And other countries in the European Union have expressed concern that small regions that are currently part of larger countries could agitate for independence, as Catalonia has done.

The report quoted Israeli officials as saying that Spain is an important member of the EU, and Prime Minister Netanyahu has a “good personal relationship” with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. As such, Israel will issue the statement on the Catalan issue in the coming days, the officials said.

The Spanish request was made last week, but PM Netanyahu and other government ministers had decided not to accede to the request. The ministers wished to express at least tacit support for Catalonia, which has historically been very sympathetic to Israel. Israelis are frequent visitors to Barcelona, the de facto capital of the region, and Israeli flags are flown on a regular basis at events and conventions. Israel, for example, is a major presence at the annual Mobile World Congress, the largest event in the mobile phone business, which takes place in Barcelona.

By contrast, the Spanish government has been highly critical of Israel for years, demanding that Israel make maximal concessions to the Palestinians. Israel has for years protested over Madrid’s diplomatic stance, as well as the fact that the country is one of the biggest donors to far-left organizations, and a major center of Palestinian diplomatic activity in Europe, the report said.

Another reason to accede to the request is the fact that President Reuven Rivlin is set to visit Spain next week, only the second time that an Israeli president has visited the country. The last time was 25 years ago, when then-President Chaim Herzog visited Spain, commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Spanish edict to deport Jews in 1492. Pres. Rivlin is set to meet PM Rajoy and Phillipa VI, the King of Spain.