The EU is still Israel’s largest trading partner, the source of much of the highly valued research funds that pour into the country, and the cultural and intellectual base of large sections of the Israeli population. I dare add that I have no doubt that if it ever gets into a spot, Israel will be able to rely much more on the Europeans than on its new “friends” in Russia, India, Japan, Africa and Saudi Arabia to come to its rescue.
Yet to listen these days to some of the Likud leaders – including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, one gets the impression that the Europeans – or more accurately the members of the EU – are our greatest enemies, who seek our destruction. Well, not all of them – not Hungary, Romania, the Czech Republic and Austria, which participated in the celebrations for the opening of the American Embassy in west Jerusalem at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and two of which are planning to open embassies of their own in our capital in the foreseeable future.
Netanyahu is pissed off with the Europeans, who “condition their relations with Israel, which produces technology in every area, on political conditions” (as he said to the leaders of the four Visegrad group members – Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia – in July 2017), namely on Israel stopping the development of Jewish settlement in the territories, which poses a threat to the two-state solution that the EU supports. Netanyahu is also frustrated with the Europeans, who insist on supporting the nuclear agreement with Iran signed in July 2015, even though they admit that it is not an ideal agreement.
Erdan blames the Europeans for providing financing to organizations that, inter alia, support the BDS (well, so do the US, Australia and a few additional non-European states). Steinitz was pissed off with the attempted intervention of the EU in the case of the Arab-Israeli director of the Massawa Center, Jafer Farah, who was apparently beaten up by an Israeli policeman while held in detention, following the violent demonstration in Haifa over the skirmishes along the Israeli-Gazan border on May 21, in which 62 Palestinians were killed. “Let them (the Europeans) go a thousand times to hell” the usually level-headed Steinitz said on May 23.
Yes, I know that Europeans – especially the liberals and social-democrats among them – can be difficult in their approach to Israel. And yes, they expect Israel to act in accordance with international law in general, and the principles of human rights in particular at a time when Israel seems to be moving away from these. They remember that from the beginning of Zionism and until quite recently the Zionists, and later the Israelis, acted to get a hold in Eretz Yisrael through international agreements based on international law, even though religious Jews always believed that the land is ours because God gave it to us.
Today it is the latter argument that the Europeans hear from the likes of Education Minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister Tzipi Hotovely and Knesset House Committee chairman Miki Zohar, while Israel insists on its own interpretation of international law, which does not quite tally with what the majority believe this law to say.
According to the way the overwhelming majority of states in the world, and in Europe in particular view international law, Israel’s presence in the territories that it occupied in June 1967 is an occupation, not a liberation, and all legal means may be used to get it out of these territories on the basis of an agreement that will also provide for Israel’s legitimate security concerns. Such legal means can include sanctions on Israel, though the EU insists on sanctions – including a boycott – only against the Jewish settlements in the territories and those who support them economically. No European state speaks of boycotting Israel as a whole or of acting toward its destruction.
With very few exceptions, the Europeans refuse to move their embassies to Jerusalem until the status of Jerusalem is settled by agreement – not by means of unilateral Israeli or American actions, and certainly not on the basis of the argument that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people, where two Jewish states and Temples were constructed and destroyed within 70 years each time (at the time of King David and King Solomon, and at the time of the Hasmoneans).
ALL ZIONIST Jews believe that we have strong links to this land, and especially to Jerusalem, but not all of us believe that we have a religious right, rather than an internationally recognized right to be here, as long as we do not disregard rights that other might have, and especially those of the Arab inhabitants of Palestine.
Basically people like myself can understand the European positions and even sympathize with most of them. The problem starts when the positions legitimately held by the Europeans are boisterously promoted by antisemites, and/or persons who are ignorant of the basic historical facts.
One cannot deny that there are among the Europeans, and even among a few of their leaders, persons who hold antisemitic views, and wouldn’t go into mourning if the Jewish state ceased to exist.
But ignorance is the worst enemy. For example, I wonder what most of the European leaders would say if asked how many persons – Jews and Arabs – have been killed as a result of the ongoing war between the two since 1947. How many know that more Muslims have been killed in Syria since the civil war broke out there in 2011, than have been killed in all the wars, campaigns, terrorist attacks and operations “behind the lines” between Israel and the Arabs (Palestinians and others) since 1947? Also, more people were killed in the former Yugoslavia during the early 1990s when that miserable state fell apart, and its various national components started slaughtering each other.
Or another example. If you ask the European leaders why there is no Palestinian state today, how many will answer that basically it is because in 1947 the Arabs of Palestine and the neighboring Arab states refused to accept the November 1947 UN partition plan and develop a state in part of Palestine – and preferred to start an all-out war to prevent the Jewish State coming into existence? Of course, there are other reasons why a Palestinian state hasn’t emerged since the late 1980s, when the PLO adopted a more pragmatic program, and Israel’s policy is among them, but it is still the Palestinians who bear most of blame for their plight, today as well.
There are many more examples.
However, after all this has been said, the current wave of Europhobia in the Israeli government is not really warranted by the facts and the situation, and in the longer run – especially after US President Donald Trump no longer resides in the White House, and a more rational and sane balance is returned to American politics – we might find ourselves “in front of a broken trough” (to borrow a Hebrew proverb), just when we need a life-saving drink of water.