Von der Leyen's comments about Israel have sparked anger among Palestinians
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was criticized by Palestine after she praised Israeli democracy in remarks marking the 75th anniversary of Israel's founding, Politico reported.
In a video message released by the EU embassy in Israel, von der Leyen paid tribute to Israel as a "vibrant democracy in the heart of the Middle East".
"You have literally made the desert bloom," she added - a comment that was condemned by the Palestinian Foreign Ministry.
"The State of Palestine rejects the inappropriate, false and discriminatory remarks of the President of the European Commission, especially the anti-Palestinian racist expression 'you made the desert bloom' in relation to Israel's 75-year-old colonial project," it said in a statement, accusing von der Leyen of "propaganda discourse".
Von der Leyen, who visited Israel and the Palestinian territories in June last year, praised EU-Israel relations.
"We have more in common than geography suggests, our shared culture, our values and hundreds of thousands of dual citizens of Israel and the EU have created a deep bond," she said in a video message addressed to Israeli President Isaac Herzog. "Your freedom is our freedom."
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said von der Leyen's statement "undermines the position of the European Union and casts serious doubt on its declared commitment to international law and human rights."
The European Commission is far from the only institution marking the anniversary this week. Several countries honored Israel as buildings in Poland, Lithuania and the US were illuminated in the colors of the Israeli flag.
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