Europe at risk from Israel-Hamas war, warns Dutch justice minister


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The Dutch justice minister — and a frontrunner to be the next premier — has warned that the conflict between Israel and Hamas could increase security risks in European countries.

Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegerius said the cycle of violence “will get translated to our societies”. Her comments came in an interview before Islamist attacks in France and Belgium killed three people and left three injured.

“Israel has every right to defend itself, which will also mean innocent victims on the Palestinian side and victims on the Israeli side will continue. It will get translated to our societies as well,” she said. 

Yeşilgöz-Zegerius, the daughter of Turkish Kurds who fled persecution, said she was reviewing security arrangements in Jewish areas. There were about 50,000 Dutch Jews, mostly in Amsterdam, she said, and there are already special police units to protect them and patrol outside synagogues and schools.

There were no “concrete threats”, she said, but “we are looking at whether it is enough” and if changes were necessary.

The minister defended the right of those sympathising with the Palestinians to protest. France has banned demonstrations while Germany has been criticised for heavy-handed policing. 

“In a democracy everybody can go out on the streets and demonstrate and be an activist. That is good. If you see Hamas flags and things that belong within a terrorist context, then the police and the prosecution should be aware . . . and handle it.”

Yeşilgöz-Zegerius, 46, called for people to “unite against terrorism”.

“You have to show that you are supporting Israel in this case. So you just raise the flag and show this is one front against terrorism.”

But as in other European countries, political parties in the Netherlands have diverged in their response to the new conflict in the Middle East ahead of Dutch general elections on November 22.

Green MP Kauthar Bouchallikht has quit as a candidate for re-election because of her party’s response, which initially failed to mention the plight of the Palestinians.

In The Hague, while the government flew the Israeli flag from ministries last week, the city council declined to do so, hanging the municipal arms at half-mast instead. 

Green MP Kauthar Bouchallikht has quit as a candidate for re-election because of her party’s response
Green MP Kauthar Bouchallikht has quit as a candidate for re-election because of her party’s response © ANP/Alamy

Yeşilgöz-Zegerius is the new leader of the ruling centre-right VVD party, taking over the baton from outgoing prime minister Mark Rutte.

She has taken a strong line on law and order and promised to “take control” of who can come into the country, mirroring the tough approach taken by the UK after it left the EU and echoing rightwing politicians in France, Germany, Italy and Greece where immigration is hotly debated. In the Netherlands, migration policy is also divisive — and triggered the collapse of the Rutte government in July. 

The minister said the Dutch system was overwhelmed with economic migrants who failed to integrate, threatening social peace. “The willingness of the Dutch public . . . to accept refugees is fragile.”

In contrast to Rutte, Yeşilgöz-Zegerius has not ruled out forming a coalition with far-fight anti-Islamist Geert Wilders. She criticised politicians who favoured open immigration for letting down both migrants and locals. 

“It sounds better . . . [when] left parties say anybody can come, there’s no problem. But then look at what’s happening in the real world. In Ter Apel [reception centre] in April last year, people were sleeping in the grass outside.”

The acceptance her family received in the 1980s — a house, work, language lessons and supportive neighbours — was unlikely to happen now because of the “pressure on society”, she said.

The VVD would reduce the rights of those granted asylum to bring extended family members to join them, and identify which sectors require workers, handing out temporary visas, she said. 

“We don’t have a vision as a government. We don’t take control.”

“There is pressure because society right now sees and feels we are getting too many people arriving without knowing who they are, who needs us and who we need. It’s just happening to us.”


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