Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

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. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Food Jewish Identity Home of Freud and…Pita? Israelis Make Culinary Mark in Vienna

    Home of Freud and…Pita? Israelis Make Culinary Mark in Vienna

    JNS.org – Several Viennese Jews have made a lasting impact on the world. Sigmund Freud’s investigations changed the face of modern psychology. Composer Arnold Schoenberg’s innovations in atonal music changed the face of music. These days, even more Jews — in particular, Israeli Jews — are changing the face of Vienna’s culinary scene with innovations in…the art of the pita. Freudians may find a psychoanalytic motive for the local appeal of the Israeli eateries popping up in the Austrian capital. Walk […]

    Read more →
  • Features Opinion In Iraqi Kurdistan, a Genocide Before Our Very Eyes

    In Iraqi Kurdistan, a Genocide Before Our Very Eyes

    The two bullet casings are already beginning to rust. Sheikh Nasser Pasha plucks them from the ground. “Look, one is from an AK-47, one from an American M-4.” The casings are strewn on the ground atop a long mound of dirt with a few bits of white sticks on it. It would appear unremarkable if one were walking by it. A closer look, however, reveals the white objects are pieces of human bone: arms, legs, and a single human skull. […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Israel and the Apartheid Narrative: 2 South African Student Leaders Weigh In

    Israel and the Apartheid Narrative: 2 South African Student Leaders Weigh In

    JNS.org – About two-dozen people file into Dodd 175 at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) campus on a Thursday night, scouting out seats and picking at the kosher pizza in the back of the lecture hall. Miyelani Pinini knows the drill. A former student president of the University of Cape Town in South Africa, she’s attended and even organized her share of free-pizza events. But now she and a fellow South African student leader were the stars of this […]

    Read more →
  • Food Spirituality/Tradition The Brewish State: Israel Taps Into Growing Craft Beer Bazaar

    The Brewish State: Israel Taps Into Growing Craft Beer Bazaar

    JNS.org – It’s widely known that Israel has penetrated the wine market, with some of its sophisticated Israeli blends surpassing historically excellent wines from areas such as the Napa Valley or Bordeaux. But what about beer? For decades, Israel has offered solely the Maccabi and Nesher brands. Not anymore. “There is a huge push of people making beer at home. The country is approaching over 30 craft breweries in the last year or two, making nearly 200 beers,” says Avi Moskowitz, […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Natalie Portman Says She Behaved Like ‘Average Everyday Jewish Mother’ on Set of Latest Movie

    Natalie Portman Says She Behaved Like ‘Average Everyday Jewish Mother’ on Set of Latest Movie

    Actress Natalie Portman acted like a typical “Jewish mother” on the set of her latest movie, Jane Got a Gun, the Israeli-born star told the New York Post‘s Page Six on Sunday. The 34-year-old, who also co-produced the western, said she made it her job to look out for everyone involved in the project, because the film has had to overcome “so many obstacles,” such as losing its director early on. She explained: “Actors changed. We suffered financial and legal challenges. We endured so many replacements. There were delays. […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Music Scorpions Lead Singer Sends Message to Israel Ahead of World Tour, Tel Aviv Performance (VIDEO)

    Scorpions Lead Singer Sends Message to Israel Ahead of World Tour, Tel Aviv Performance (VIDEO)

    “We’re looking very much forward to coming back to Israel this summer,” said the lead singer of the German rock band Scorpions in a video on Monday. “Make sure you don’t miss it because we rock you like a hurricane!” said a jovial Klaus Meine, quoting the band’s seminal 1984 anthem, “Rock You Like a Hurricane.” The hard rock band lands in Israel for a show at the Menorah Mivtachim Arena on July 14 as part of its 50th anniversary tour. It will be the band’s third time […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews The Collected Works of Primo Levi, Edited by Ann Goldstein (REVIEW)

    The Collected Works of Primo Levi, Edited by Ann Goldstein (REVIEW)

    Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel were the two most immediate and authentic literary voices who gave witness to the Holocaust. Wiesel was an extrovert and a very public figure who wrote initially in French. Levi was a modest retiring chemist who wrote in Italian. Whereas Wiesel was rooted in the Eastern European Jewish Hassidic world, Levi was the product of an assimilated, secular Italian society that saw itself as Italian first and Jewish as an accident of birth. As Levi himself said, “At Auschwitz I […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Lifestyle Wine Brings Judea and Samaria to Tel Aviv

    Wine Brings Judea and Samaria to Tel Aviv

    JNS.org – Wine has long been considered a social lubricant, and it’s Nir Lavie’s hope that wine from his Har Bracha Winery in the Samarian hills will serve as a social lubricant between the city-goers of Tel Aviv and the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria, two locales split geographically, and often politically, on the left and right of the country. The new flagship store of Har Bracha has recently popped its corks on 190 Ben Yehuda Street in Tel Aviv, […]

    Read more →