Dutch MP refuses to shake hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Tunahan Kuzu said his gesture was intended as a protest over the abuses committed against Palestinian civilians living under Israeli military rule in the occupied territories

Alexandra Sims
Thursday 15 September 2016 10:32 BST
Dutch MP refuses to shake hands with Benjamin Netanyahu

Video has emerged of a Dutch MP wearing a Palestinian flag pin refusing to shake hands with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Tunahan Kuzu, a former Labour MP who founded the multi-ethnic, pro-immigration party Denk (Think) in 2014, made the gesture before Mr Netanyahu attended a meeting in The Hague with the Dutch parliamentary affairs committee while on a two-day visit to the Netherlands.

Footage of the incident shows Mr Kuzu withdraw his right hand from the Israeli leader as he extends his, telling him: “I refuse to shake hands with you”.

In a statement posted to Facebook, Mr Kuzu said his gesture was intended as a protest over the abuses committed against Palestinian civilians living under Israeli military rule in the occupied territories.

Mr Kuzu added that following the incident on 7 September, he confronted Mr Netanyahu away from the cameras with pictures purporting to show Palestinians being abused in Gaza and the West Bank, including one of a 12-year-old boy placed in headlock by an Israeli soldier, The Intercept reports.

He allegedly asked the Prime Minister if the pictures promoted “democracy, technology, and security in the region” – words Mr Netanyahu had previously used to describe Israel.

Following the rebuff, Mr Netanyahu said in a video message: "Today, we saw another clear example – of those who want peace and those who don’t", seemingly referring to Mr Kuzu.

On Tuesday, the US said it will provide Israel's military with $38 billion during the next 10 years - the largest batch of military assistance the US has ever pledged to another country.

The deal follows months of negotiations amid increasingly strained relations between Mr Netanyahu and the Obama administration.

Ties between the countries worsened significantly when the US and world powers struck a nuclear deal with Iran, who Israel considers to be an existential threat.

While last week, Mr Netanyahu drew sharp criticism from the US after he released a video message saying the Palestinians wanted to form a state devoid of a Jewish population and termed it "ethnic cleansing".

In the message, Mr Netanyahu said in reference to the removal of Israeli settlements in the West Bank: "The Palestinian leadership actually demands a Palestinian state with one pre-condition: ‘No Jews’. There's a phrase for that: ‘It's called ethnic cleansing. And this demand is outrageous’."

Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has stated that a future Palestinian state would not permit a single Israeli settler to live within its borders.

In response to the clip, US State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau described the Israeli leader's words as "inappropriate and unhelpful".

Thousands of people staged a protest in The Hague in response to Mr Netanyahu’s visit, with many of the demonstrators carrying mug shots of Mr Netanyahu reading “Bring Bibi Netanyahu to International Criminal Court” and “Free Palestine, boycott Israel”, PressTV reports.

Broadcaster NOS said Mr Kuzu had been a replacement at the meeting for Rik Grashoff, an MP from left-wing green party GroenLinks that opposes the role of Israel in the Middle East, who did not attend the event on principle, Dutch News reports.

During the visit Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in a speech that his government was calling for an immediate end to the creation of Jewish only settlements in territory seized by Israel and that the country would not prevent citizens from taking part in Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movements against firms that aid Israel’s occupation.

Prior to Mr Netanyahu's’s visit, the former Dutch Prime Minister Dries van Agt described Mr Netanyahu as a war criminal who should be tried in the International Criminal Court.

Most countries view Israeli West Bank settlements as illegal and an obstacle to peace. Israel rejects this, saying Jews have been living in the territory for thousands of years.

The Palestinians hope to establish an independent state in the occupied West Bank, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war, along with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Additional reporting by agencies

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