Pro-Israel group ‘largely happy’ with new European Commission

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — A major pro-Israel group working within the European Union has expressed satisfaction at the new makeup of the European Commission.

European Friends of Israel, which has over 1,000 members from the European Parliament and from parliaments of individuals European countries, asserted its satisfaction with the new commission in a statement.

“Here at EFI we are largely happy with the shape of the new commission,” read the Sept. 10 statement, which was released immediately after the confirmation of the new nominations. It noted early on that E.U. foreign policy chief “Catherine Ashton’s replacement was already agreed by E.U. leaders.”

The European Commission is the executive arm of the European Union, with new nominations occurring every five years.

Ashton, whom Jewish groups have accused of harboring bias against Israel, was replaced by Federica Mogherini of Italy.

“Already active in the region, Mogherini visited Israel a week into Operation Protective Edge, holding meetings with both Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas and  called for an immediate cease-fire,” EFI said in its statement. “She talked about the dangers of radicalization in the Arab world.”

Ashton faced intense criticism in Israel and by Jewish groups when she said at an event about Palestinian refugees in Brussels that the murder of three Jewish children by an Islamist in Toulouse made her think of children who died in Gaza as a result of Israeli attacks on Hamas.

Other portfolio holders at the new European Commission praised by EFI included Cecilia Malmstrom and Corina Cretu, the commission’s ministers for trade and regional development, respectively.

Both have “been actively involved in fighting and tackling anti-Semitism, and engaging with Israel,” EFI wrote.

Maros Sefcovic, in charge of transport and space, “is a former ambassador to Israel and knows the country, its people and politics,” and Dimitris Avramapoulos and Miguel Arias Canete — migration and home affairs and climate action and energy, respectively — “are both on the record as vocal supporters of Israel,” EFI added.

The new college of commissioners also includes Frans Timmermans of the Netherlands, who has faced criticism by pro-Israel groups for allegedly encouraging local initiatives to boycott Israel, though he has denied this. He was recently criticized in the Netherlands for implying that religion was a marginal factor in the fight between Israel and the Islamist group Hamas.

He is the new commissioner for human rights.

The commission’s new president, Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg, received praises in July from the American Jewish Committee. “AJC commends your attention to one additional, urgent issue — the fight against anti-Semitism — that we hope you will address as a high priority early in your mandate,” AJC director David Harris wrote to Juncker.