Ursula von der Leyen has been told she cannot take her re-election as European Commission President for granted next year – with some MEPs likely to be “annoyed” by her staunch support for Israel.
Pieter Cleppe also highlighted a widening “split” between Ms von der Leyen and Josep Borrell, the bloc’s top diplomat, who on Monday once more accused Israel of being in breach of international law.
Ms von der Leyen has offered steadfast support for Israel ever since Hamas’s terror attack on October 7 claimed more than 700 lives, with Hamas gunmen also taking at least 199 people hostage.
Israel has responded with multiple air strikes on Gaza, as well as cutting off fuel and energy supplies.
The former German defence minister has been reluctant to criticise its approach, and visited the country on October 13 – although she tweeted yesterday: “I made clear that, in its legitimate efforts to fight Hamas terrorists, Israel must seek to protect civilian lives and respect international humanitarian law.”
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Nevertheless, Mr Borrell has been more strident, and this week took the opportunity to address the question of Israel’s conduct since the attacks,
He said: “Israel has the right to defend itself, and this has to be done in accordance with international humanitarian law.
“It cannot be a rhetorical sentence.”
Speaking to Express.co.uk yesterday, Pieter Cleppe, Editor-in-chief of BrusselsReport.eu, said: “We can indeed notice a split between Borrell and von der Leyen, as von der Leyen is clearly more strongly siding with Israel.
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“This is also the case among EU member states, with Germany more strongly siding with Israel than for example Spain, where the hard left governing party has been very ambiguous about its support for the right of the Israeli democracy to defend itself.”
Referring to High Representative Mr Borrell’s motives, Mr Cleppe continued: “He is a Spaniard and a social demcrat, so that’s the main reason he takes up that point of view, I think.
“This most likely won’t have much of an impact on his future career, as EU policy officials are split on all kinds of policies all the time.”
As for Ms von der Leyen, he said there were plenty of elected officials who were less than impressed.
Even if most MEPs “probably don’t mind her ignoring the member states” many were “annoyed by her support for Israel”, he suggested.
Mr Cleppe still believed Ms von der Leyen was likely to be elected to a second term by MEPs next year.
However, he suggested this was not a given.
He said: “Let’s say it is a factor against her.”
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