The Madrid regional premier, Isabel Diaz Ayuso, has been in Jerusalem amid the ongoing war of words between Barcelona´s Mayor, Ada Colau, and Israel over her decision to drop the city´s twinning with Tel Aviv citing claims of “apartheid” and “violation of human rights.”
In a letter to Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, last week, Ada Colau said the move was due to Israel’s ‘systemic violation’ of the rights of the Palestinian population.
Ayuso who was in Israel to promote the Madrid region said: “Barcelona did something that is a big mistake and that doesn’t represent the whole of Spain and it does not represent Madrid.”
“My message doesn’t go against anyone. It goes in favour,” she said of the relationship with Israel. “We want to share experiences for start-ups and affordability and also to strengthen the relations between Israel and Madrid.”
Ayuso said that she introduced the history of Sephardi Jewry to the Madrid regional education system.
“Two years ago, we introduced the history of Sephard to all of our schools.” Now all schools in the region learn about the rich Jewish history in the country as well as about Spanish Jews during the period of the Holocaust, she said.
“We have promoted initiatives against BDS [boycott, divestments and sanctions on Israel], we’ve promoted initiatives against antisemitism at the European Parliament and, of course, we commemorate the Shoah, the Holocaust,” she said, adding that “we also remember the links between us, at every opportunity.”
During her visit to Israel, she met with President Isaac Herzog, Economy Minister Nir Barkat, Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Fleur Hassan-Nahoum and Hadassah Medical Organization ’s director-general, Yoram Weiss.
“For me, the important message is that Madrid is an open place, which fully receives many people, especially Jewish Madridians. Madrid is their home, and Barcelona’s decision does not represent the vast majority of Catalonians and, of course, of Spaniards,” Ayuso said.
The visit will also promote Madrid as a connecting destination for Israeli business in the country and the Americas.
The Spanish government has also weighed in against the Barcelona mayor.
The Spanish Foreign Minister, José Manuel Albares, attacked the ‘unilateral decision, and I understand an almost personal decision, by the mayor’.
‘I believe that Barcelona’s vocation is to be an open city, as Spain is,’ he said. “I do not believe that anything good is achieved by suspending, cutting & expelling.”