Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu landed in Lithuania Thursday for a visit with leaders of the Baltic States. He hopes to deepen ties with the three nations so that they might become an advocate for Israel in the European Union.
In prepared remarks, Netanyahu criticized the EU over a recent support package designed to buttress Iran’s struggling economy. The first installment in the deal will inject 18 million euros ($21 million) into Iran’s economy. The EU’s economic commitment is designed to keep the Iranian nuclear deal, from which President Trump withdrew in May, from falling apart.
Netanyahu called the economic package a “big mistake” and “a poison pill to the Iranian people and to the efforts to curb Iranian aggression in the region and beyond the region.” He later told a press conference that Iran had just attempted a terrorist attack on European soil over the summer, likely referring to a suspected bomb plot in late June. Authorities prevented the attack, which targeted an Iranian opposition rally in France. Officials suspected that an Iranian diplomat cooperated in coordinating the plot.
Netanyahu met with the three Baltic prime ministers– Saulius Skvernelis of Lithuania, Juri Ratas of Estonia, and Maris Kucinskis of Latvia. He forged a seemingly strong bond with Skvernelis, who told the Baltic News Service, “I believe Lithuania really has a better understand of Israel and that understand could be spread among other EU countries.”
He continued, “But we have to admit that today Israel is not only waging war and defending its independence, the lives of its people, but is also fighting in a wider context, if we speak about terrorism and potential expansion of IS fighters to Europe.”
He also told AFP that while he supports the EU position on a two-state solution, the status of Jerusalem, and the nuclear deal with Iran, “Lithuania will initiate discussion in EU home affairs council with the Israeli public security minister over terrorism threats and other security issues.” He said the EU and Israel need more “direct dialogue.”
The Times of Israel said that many Israelis traced their origins to Lithuania. Lithuanian Jews suffered many atrocities during World War II, as Nazis and their local allies killed over 90 percent of their population. Netanyahu’s grandmother was born in the northern Lithuanian town of Seduva.
Prime Minister Netanyahu plans to meet with members of Lithuania’s Jewish community. He will also visit a memorial to Holocaust victims.
Netanyahu’s visit, the first from an Israeli Prime Minister to Lithuania, will last four days.
Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Sean Gallup/Staff