1 of 3 | European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (L) poses for a photograph with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid before meeting in the Knesset, Israel's Parliament, in Jerusalem on Monday. Pool photo by Maya Alleruzzo/UPI | License Photo
June 13 (UPI) -- European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen arrived in Israel Monday, kicking off two days of talks on energy cooperation, the global response to the food crisis and Middle East security.
"Very happy to be in Israel," the European Union leader tweeted. "Let's work together to strengthen further the [EU-Israel] partnership."
Von der Leyen met with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid at the Knesset, Israel's Parliament, in Jerusalem following her arrival on Monday.
The EU leader is scheduled to receive an honorary doctorate degree from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev on Tuesday, followed by a visit to Ramallah in the West Bank, where she will meet the Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh.
Later in the day, von der Leyen will return to Jerusalem for a meeting with the Israeli President Isaac Herzog, after which she is scheduled to visit Yad Vashem, Israel's official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust.
She will wrap up her visit Tuesday evening by meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
The trip comes as the invasion of Ukraine has sparked new European efforts to wean itself from Russian energy supplies, apply harsh sanctions on Moscow and to quickly upgrade its defense capabilities.
The invasion has also imperiled global food supplies and triggered price surges as Ukraine is one of the world's largest wheat exporters.
In response, the EU is increasingly turning to Israel as a partner in addressing those evolving geopolitical concerns, von der Leyen told The Times of Israel before the visit.
"Europe needs to reinforce its ability to deal with security threats and to protect its citizens and interests," she said, adding, "The European Union and Israel share a unique bond. Forged by history, built on our shared values and interests, and rooted in excellent cooperation on topics ranging from energy to health, from culture to research and innovation, to name just a few.
The EU leader said her visit "aims to build on this deep cooperation, to make our partnership even stronger.
"This is important and urgent in these bleak times, with many challenges affecting the region, and with Russia's invasion of Ukraine sending shockwaves around the globe, particularly on food and energy security," she said. "We will discuss how to address these shockwaves, together as partners."