Thank you, Minister [for Foreign Affairs of Israel, Eli] Cohen.
I have not understood when you were speaking in Hebrew, but I have a son who speaks Hebrew quite well, so I am very proud of that.
I want to thank you for inviting me. In fact, you invited me in September in New York, but we could have not imagined that when I was going to come to Israel, this visit would take place in such tragic circumstances.
And it is good that I have come and you showed me the place where this horror happened.
Minister, the world is enduring a moment of profound suffering.
I know what a Kibbutz means for the Israelis because, I, myself, when I was young, in 1969 – many years ago – I went to work and I spent a summer in a Kibbutz nearby, in Be’er Sheva, wanting to contribute to the spirit of hope, peace and solidarity of the Kibbutzims.
When I entered in this ravaged school, when I entered in these stormed houses, I felt the ambiance [from] more than 40 years ago. I felt the ambiance of what a Kibbutz is, what the Kibbutz has been in the history of Israel, and what the Kibbutz represents today for you.
I even found a young woman and married her during my stay at the Kibbutz so, I understand what the family of the Kibbutzims feel when their sons, or their fathers or daughters are kidnapped.
Today, Minister, I am here to share your grief, to share your pain and to stress the European Union’s solidarity with the Israeli people.
Certainly, nothing justifies what the terrorists from Hamas did here and in other places on the 7th of October.
Nothing justifies abducting women, children, and elderly people from their homes and taking them hostages into Gaza.
Once again, in the name of the European Union, I ask for their immediate and unconditional release.
You know, Minister, that the European Union has condemned the action of Hamas in the strongest possible terms, and that we support unequivocally Israel’s right to defend itself, in line with international law and with international humanitarian law.
We will not be able to bring [to] life [the] dead, but we can give freedom to the hostages.
The best homage that we can give to the memory of the victims is to think about how to prevent these horrors to happen ever again.
Hamas has to be defeated, but Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people. One thing is Hamas, another thing is the Palestinian people.
We know that war is horrible, and what we have seen here is horrible. I am old enough in order to have seen many horrible places in the world [affected] by wars. Not far from here is Gaza. One horror does not justify another.
Innocent civilians, including thousands of children, have died in the past weeks. We also know that people are also forced to leave their houses and need assistance. They need food, water, fuel, and protection.
Israel has to be defended. And today, even today, another terrorist attack has happened in Israel. So, it is an everyday fight.
But one thing is to defend Israel, and another thing is to take care of the people in need. This is why the European Union, together with supporting of the right to defend of Israel, is also asking for humanitarian assistance for food, water, fuel and protection.
That is why, the European Union and the United Nations have continued to call for a continued, rapid, safe, and unhindered humanitarian access and aid to reach those in need through all necessary measures including humanitarian corridors and pauses for humanitarian needs.
Minister, allow me to say something that does not come from this piece of paper but from the bottom of my heart.
I understand your fears and pain. I understand the fears and pain of the people that have been attacked, slaughtered, kidnapped. I understand your rage. But let me ask you not to be consumed by rage. I think that is what the best friends of Israel can tell you, because what makes the difference between a civilised society and a terrorist group is the respect for human life.
All human lives have the same value and ultimately, security can only come from peace. I know that you are now consumed by pain and sorrow but at a certain moment, we will have to see how this war ends and how we can create a better future. A future that Israel deserves because the Jewish people deserve to live in security. They have endured too much during centuries.
But we have seen that walls, and technology, and soldiers are not enough to make Israel secure. I was talking to an Israeli Reserve Officer who told me: “no army can protect a nation better as peace can do”. He was coming back to defend his country, to serve his country, but he was very much aware that our duty is to look for peace. A sustainable solution that can give to Israel the right to live in peace and security, living side by side with others – with the Palestinians and the Arab countries.
This is something that has to be remembered today in these tragic moments, together with the pity and sorrow for what I have seen and for the people who have been suffering.
I am sure that you will understand my feeling and that we could work together for this endeavour.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-249426