Jerusalem (AFP) - An Israeli minister on Tuesday suggested Europeans had ignored the danger of "Islamic terror cells" and focused on criticising Israel instead, in a statement in response to the Brussels attacks.
While offering condolences over the deadly bombings, Science, Technology and Space Minister Ofir Akunis also hit out at Europe over its labelling of products from Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.
"I will repeat: many in Europe have preferred to occupy themselves with the folly of condemning Israel, labelling products, and boycotts," Akunis, an ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said on his Facebook page.
"In this time, underneath the nose of the continent's citizens, thousands of extremist Islamic terror cells have grown. There were those who repressed and mocked whoever tried to give warning. There were those who underestimated.
"To our sorrow, the reality has struck the lives of dozens of innocent people, powerfully and fatally," the minister from Netanyahu's rightwing Likud party said.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog slammed Akunis accusing him of being "condescending" on his Facebook page.
"Enough! Where does this miserable cynicism come from... Together, without being condescending, we must unite to defeat terrorism," said Herzog.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin sent a message of condolences to King Philip of Belgium saying the "horrible events prove once more that we must all unite in the struggle against those who use violence to stifle liberties".
Netanyahu also extended his condolences to the families of the victims during a visit to Washington, also calling for "unity to defeat terrorism".
Tuesday's bombings of Brussels airport and a metro train killed around 35 people and wounded more than 200 others.
In November, new EU guidelines were issued forcing member countries to label imported goods from Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, sparking condemnation from Netanyahu.
Israel has also faced heavy criticism in Europe over settlement building in the occupied West Bank and over alleged abuses against the Palestinians.