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...

  • Europe Sports Croatian Soccer Star’s Hebrew Tattoo Causes a Stir Online

    Croatian Soccer Star’s Hebrew Tattoo Causes a Stir Online

    A Hebrew tattoo sported by Croatian soccer star Mario Mandzukic became an internet sensation in Israel after it was exposed on Tuesday during a Champions League match between Ateltico Madrid and Real Madrid A first glance, the tattoo, on the athlete’s back, might leave one with the impression that it was an unfortunate artistic mistake, since the Hebrew letters do not make sense as they are written. However, a closer look at the tattoo shows that it was actually written [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater Why an Algemeiner Editor Wrote a Play About a Mass Shooter

    Why an Algemeiner Editor Wrote a Play About a Mass Shooter

    For the past two years, I have served as Opinion Editor at The Algemeiner. I’m perhaps most proud of the paper’s commitment to publishing diverse and opposing viewpoints on the controversial issues of the day. We pride ourselves on voicing different opinions because we know that most issues are not black and white, and because our community is better served by a public debate. In my life outside of the paper, I am a professional actor and playwright. And similarly, [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Commentary In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    JNS.org – “Risk: The Game of Strategic Conquest,” the classic Parker Brothers board game, requires imperial ambitions. Players imagine empires and are pitted against each other, vying for world domination. Amid this fictional world war, beginners learn fast that no matter the superiority of their army, every advance is a gamble determined by a roll of the dice. After a defeat, a player must retreat. Weighted reinforcement cards provide the only opportunity to reverse a player’s fortunes and resume the [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Sports Does Working Out With Other Jews Keep You Jewish?

    Does Working Out With Other Jews Keep You Jewish?

    JNS.org – For Daphna Krupp, her daily workout (excluding Shabbat) at the Jewish Community Center (JCC or “J”) of Greater Baltimore has become somewhat of a ritual. She not only attends fitness classes but also engages with the instructors and plugs the J’s social programs on her personal Facebook page. “It’s the gym and the environment,” says Krupp. “It’s a great social network.” Krupp, who lives in Pikesville, Md., is one of an estimated 1 million American Jewish members of more [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Sports Illustrated Profiles Orthodox NCAA Basketball Player Aaron Liberman

    Sports Illustrated Profiles Orthodox NCAA Basketball Player Aaron Liberman

    Sports Illustrated magazine featured an extensive profile on Orthodox-Jewish college basketball player Aaron Liberman on Wednesday.  The article details Liberman’s efforts to balance faith, academics and basketball at Tulane University, a challenge the young athlete calls “a triple major.” Sports Illustrated pointed out that Liberman is the second Orthodox student to play Division I college basketball. The other was Tamir Goodman, the so-called “Jewish Jordan.” As reported in The Algemeiner, Liberman started his NCAA career at Northwestern University. According to [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    As the popularity of cycling continues to increase across the world, Israel is working to develop cycling trails that make the country’s spectacular desert accessible to cyclists. The southern segment of the Israel Bike Trail was inaugurated on Feb. 24 and offers for the first time a unique, uninterrupted 8-day cycling experience after six years of planning and development. The southern section of the Israel Bike Trail stretches over 300 kilometers in length and is divided into eight segments for mountain biking, [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    JNS.org – With the recent Oscars in the rearview mirror, Hollywood’s attention now shifts to the rest of this year’s big-screen lineup. Two of the major action films coming up in 2015—Avengers: Age of Ultron, which hits theaters in May, and the third film in the Fantastic Four series, slated for an August release—have Jewish roots that the average moviegoer might be unaware of. As it turns out, it took a tough Jewish kid from New York City’s Lower East [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – Rabbi Gordon Tucker spent the first 20 years of his career teaching at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and the next 20 years as the rabbi of Temple Israel Center in White Plains, N.Y. I confess that when I heard about the order of those events, I thought that Tucker’s move from academia to the pulpit was strange. Firstly, I could not imagine anyone filling the place of my friend, Arnold Turetsky, who was such a talented [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.