Spain’s PM Sanchez talks to Israeli cabinet minister after row

MADRID (Reuters) – Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez spoke with Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz on Friday to try to defuse tension between the two countries after comments by Sanchez angered Israel for a second time in a week.

Israel recalled its ambassador to Spain for consultations in Jerusalem on Thursday after Sanchez said he doubted Israel respected international humanitarian law and repeated that military action in the Gaza Strip was not acceptable.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said Sanchez’ remarks were “outrageous”.

“Israel is acting, and will continue to act, according to international law,” Cohen said on Thursday in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Last week, similar comments by Sanchez and his Belgian counterpart Alexander de Croo at the Egyptian-controlled Rafah crossing prompted Cohen to summon the ambassadors of both countries over the remarks that he said repeated “false claims” and “gave terrorism a boost”.

On Friday, Sanchez said he told Gantz – a former Defence Minister who joined Netanyahu in an emergency unity government last month – by phone that Israel is “a partner and friend of Spain”.

“Israel has the right to defend itself against this terrorist attack, but I reaffirmed that Spain finds the death of civilians in Gaza unbearable and that Israel must comply with international humanitarian law,” Sanchez wrote in a post in X.

Gantz also said on X he had emphasised to Sanchez “that for the sake of Israel’s security, Israeli civilians’ sense of security, and restoring regional stability – terrorist Hamas must be dismantled in Gaza.”

“I added to the Prime Minister that the State of Israel places great importance on avoiding civilian casualties as much as possible. Hamas on the other hand, continues to perpetrate horrific crimes against humanity like using children and women as human shields for its terror activities,” he also wrote in X.

(Reporting by Emma Pinedo in Madrid and Henriette Chacar in Tel Aviv; editing by Philippa Fletcher)