Why Europe’s Influence on Israel is Limited

December 19, 2012 10:46 am 0 comments

EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton. Photo: wiki commons.

Europeans often express frustration that they are not more involved in seeking to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Given the geographical proximity and financial support for Palestinian development, Europeans wonder why their political role is so circumscribed.

The answer, I believe, lies in a widespread Israeli belief that Europe too often gives short shrift to Jerusalem’s concerns.

Take, for example, the UN General Assembly vote on November 29th to upgrade the Palestinians to non-member observer state status in the world body.

Despite strenuous objections from Jerusalem (and Washington) that such a move would deal a setback to reviving the peace process, reward the Palestinians for bypassing the negotiating table, and undermine the 1993 Oslo Accords, 14 EU countries, including Spain, opted to support the gambit.

Only the Czech Republic voted against. But if I had to choose just one EU capital to oppose the measure, Prague would have been it.

No other EU country has such a long record of outspoken support for the creation of a Jewish state, dating back almost a century to the legendary President Thomas Masaryk and interrupted only in the communist era.

Moreover, given its own history, the Czech Republic uniquely understands Israel’s vulnerability. After all, in 1938, Britain and France sacrificed then Czechoslovakia in a vain effort to satisfy the Third Reich. Instead, of course, Berlin’s appetite was only whetted, leading to the devastation of the Second World War.

Had the EU abstained as a group on the UN vote, as some member countries wished, it would have sent a more balanced message, but, led by France, that was not to be.

Or consider the EU’s unwillingness to add Hezbollah to its list of terrorist organizations.

Here is an organization that has been implicated in repeated murderous plots, from Latin America to Asia, from Europe to the Middle East. Yet, years have passed since the issue was first raised in Brussels and nothing has happened. Now, we are told, everything hinges on the Bulgarian investigation of the deadly attack in July that killed six people. But why should that become the linchpin, as if there were not already reams of evidence of terrorist involvement, not to mention repeated threats to incinerate Israel?

And in recent days, there have been reports of four EU nations – Denmark, Finland, Ireland, and Portugal – seeking to block an EU statement that included condemnation of the incendiary comments of Khalid Mashaal, the Hamas chief. Here is an excerpt of his remarks earlier this month: “Today is Gaza. Tomorrow will be Ramallah and after that Jerusalem, then Haifa and Jaffa.”

Only the intervention of Germany and, again, the Czech Republic ensured rejection of this hateful rhetoric reiterating Hamas’ oft-stated desire to wipe Israel off the map.

If the EU cannot recognize Hezbollah as a terrorist group, and has difficulty condemning eliminationist remarks by the Hamas leader, how can Israel have confidence in a greater European role?

If the EU truly wants to increase that role, let it first show more sensitivity to Israel’s unenviable security position – in both words and deeds.

After all, in any peace process leading to a two-state agreement, Israel, two-thirds the size of Belgium, would be asked to take unprecedented risks for peace. Europe needs to ask how it can help mitigate those risks. Seeing terrorist groups for what they really are is one way. So is exploring seriously what could be the EU role “the day after” any peace accord, insofar as Israel’s security is concerned.

Recent events in the Arab world underscore once again the dangers of the area. Syria’s deadly violence may be a matter of concern to the EU, to be sure, but Damascus shares a border with Israel. So do Hezbollah-dominated Lebanon and Hamas-dominated Gaza, as do Muslim Brotherhood-ruled Egypt and the increasingly lawless Sinai. Meanwhile, the West Bank is ruled by the Palestinian Authority, which makes an art form of sending mixed signals – one day calling for peace talks, the next day refusing to condemn Hamas-fired missiles at Israel and then seeking reconciliation with the group, whose covenant explicitly calls for Israel’s annihilation.

That is the regrettable reality of Israel’s neighborhood. It is a far cry from Spain’s or Sweden’s.

And the overlay of Jewish history makes it still starker. After all, as a people of memory, the Jews recall that, more than once, those who called for our elimination tried to implement it, whether in the Middle East or Europe.

By showing more sensitivity to Israel’s unique situation, Europe would be doing the right thing – and, no doubt, earning itself a greater role in the political process.

David Harris is executive director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC). This article was originally published by El País in Spanish.


Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Featured Sports World Palestinian Soccer League Withdraws Bid to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    Palestinian Soccer League Withdraws Bid to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    The head of Israel’s soccer association called on his Palestinian counterpart to “join forces,” as the Palestinian Football Association withdrew its bid on Friday to have Israel suspended from FIFA. “Let’s leave it to the politicians to do politics,” said Israel Football Association chief Ofer Eini, moments after PFA Chairman Jibril Rajoub announced that his group had withdrawn the proposal. After his remarks, Eini shook hands with the Palestinian soccer chief. Rajoub thanked “those” who convinced him to drop the [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Israeli-American Group Congratulates Cavaliers’ Blatt on Reaching NBA Finals

    Israeli-American Group Congratulates Cavaliers’ Blatt on Reaching NBA Finals

    JNS.org – An organization whose work focuses on the estimated population of 500,000-800,000 Israeli Americans congratulated David Blatt, the Jewish head coach of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Cleveland Cavaliers and a longtime Israel-based coach, for clinching an appearance in the NBA Finals. The Israeli-American Council (IAC), whose stated mission is “to build an active and giving Israeli-American community throughout the United States in order to strengthen the State of Israel, our next generation, and to provide a bridge to [...]

    Read more →
  • Food US & Canada Bacon Flavor Ben & Jerry’s ‘Not Gonna Happen’ Because it Wouldn’t be Kosher

    Bacon Flavor Ben & Jerry’s ‘Not Gonna Happen’ Because it Wouldn’t be Kosher

    Famed ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s will not be introducing a Bacon flavored product to its offerings because the company intends to keep its entire line kosher, Marketing Director Alison Gilbert told AOL’s morning show Rise recently. “It’s kind of funny, a lot of people look for bacon in our ice cream, which is probably not gonna happen because all of our ice cream is kosher,” she said, referring to Jewish dietary restrictions that proscribe the consumption of pig [...]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports Israeli Judo Team Faces Antisemitic Harassment in Morocco: ‘We Will Murder You’

    Israeli Judo Team Faces Antisemitic Harassment in Morocco: ‘We Will Murder You’

    Israeli athletes at a world Judo championship in Morocco reportedly faced antisemitic slurs during the competition, news site WorldNetDaily reported on Monday. “We will murder you,” and “you’re not wanted here, go home,” were among the vituperative attacks directed at the Israeli Judo Association team, which was in Morocco last week for the World Masters Judo Tournament. According to Haaretz, each Israeli teammate was met with boos and jeers upon entering a fight. Additionally, no Israeli flags were present at [...]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Lady Gaga Accepts ADL Award: ‘Your Philosophies Are So in Line With Ours’ (VIDEO)

    Lady Gaga Accepts ADL Award: ‘Your Philosophies Are So in Line With Ours’ (VIDEO)

    Pop superstar Lady Gaga on Thursday accepted an award from Jewish human rights group the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on behalf of her Born This Way Foundation, which strives to combat bullying among young people. “Your philosophies are so in line with ours,” she said of the ADL upon accepting the Making a Difference Award in a videotaped message, which was shown at a ceremony in New York City. “We want to help young people know that their feelings and who they are on [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities At 80, Singer-Songwriter Leonard Cohen’s Jewish Roots ‘Very Much Intact’

    At 80, Singer-Songwriter Leonard Cohen’s Jewish Roots ‘Very Much Intact’

    JNS.org – Eighty years young, Leonard Cohen fits many descriptions—singer, songwriter, poet, novelist, monk. From his Jewish upbringing in Canada to the present day, Cohen has always explored his spiritual side. This month, the singer-songwriter released the CD (May 12) and iTunes (on May 8 of this year) formats of his latest album, Can’t Forget: A Souvenir of the Grand Tour, which features live recordings from his world tours in 2012 and 2013. Last year, Cohen’s Popular Problems was voted by Rolling Stone [...]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports FIFA Head Says Israel Should Not be Booted From World Soccer Association

    FIFA Head Says Israel Should Not be Booted From World Soccer Association

    JNS.org – Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) head Sepp Blatter said during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that contrary to Palestinian complaints, Israel has not violated any FIFA statutes and should not be suspended from international soccer’s governing body. “We should not come to one federation saying we will exclude them,” said Blatter, the Jerusalem Post reported. “If the national association is fulfilling its obligations then there is no need to intervene,” he said. “I’m on a [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Middle East Sports Jewish Rights Group Slams Palestinian Attempts to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    Jewish Rights Group Slams Palestinian Attempts to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    Jewish human rights group the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) said on Tuesday it was “appalled” by a Palestinian Football Association initiative to suspend Israel from FIFA, calling it another “front waged in the context of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign.” “We are appalled at the temerity of the Palestinan Football Association (PFA) demand that FIFA suspend Israel at your forthcoming Congress in Zurich,” wrote the group’s international relations director, Dr. Shimon Samuels, in a letter to FIFA President Joseph [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.