Israel’s force in bilateral relations will greatly increase if compared to the current confrontation with the EU behemoth with its more than 500 million inhabitants.
After Brexit referendum, the breakup of the European Union through a collapse or voluntary disbandment can no longer be considered a fully absurd scenario. To create a framework of thought it is worthwhile to start analyzing what that could mean for Israel, even though Israel will not play any role in the process if it develops.
Particularly in the new century, the EU has taken increasingly hostile and occasionally antisemitic positions toward Israel on several issues. This led the Simon Wiesenthal Center to put the EU in third place in its 2015 list of worldwide promoters of antisemitic and/or anti-Israel incidents. It gave as reason: “The European Union has chosen to label products from the Golan Heights and disputed territories on the West Bank alone, ignoring the products of other occupied and disputed territories in the world such as Western Sahara, Kashmir, Tibet and products from areas controlled by terrorist Hamas and Hezbollah. This use of double standards against Israel typifies modern anti-Israelism and has been at the core of antisemitism for many centuries.”
The above example of discrimination is only one of the many justified criticisms Israel has of the EU. This hostility originates on a continent where the greatest mass murder of the Jews to ever take place occurred less than a hundred years ago. The Holocaust was not a German and Austrian project alone. Many other European authorities and individuals collaborated. Some elements of its impact continue to exist today.
Today there is a large amount of indirect support of Israel-hatred and antisemitism coming from Europe. The European Commission has done nothing to develop selection procedures concerning immigration from Muslim countries with high levels of antisemitism. There is a testimony from the Dutch former EU commissioner Frits Bolkestein that when he raised the issue of Muslim immigration in a meeting of the EC around 2000, his colleagues considered him a racist.
Nor has the EU, with all of its talk about the rise in antisemitism, tried to develop a unified reporting system for antisemitic incidents in its member countries.
One major argument which seemingly favored the existence of the EU from an Israeli viewpoint has been that some member countries could take stronger anti-Israel positions if they were not bound by common EU positions.
In recent months, various actions taken by France have shown that this argument is weaker than often considered.
Presidential elections are due there within several weeks. The presidency of Socialist François Hollande has been such a failure that for the first time in the history of the Fifth Republic, a sitting president is not running for a second term. He did the favor to two journalists, Gerard Davet and Fabrice Lhomme, of giving them access to regular private conversations during his time in office.
In their recently released book, they list “impotence” as the main characteristic of the Hollande presidency.
Recently, Israel became an even more convenient scapegoat for the French authorities. In January, France organized a useless international conference on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The organizers knew that a few days later US President Donald Trump, who holds radically different views from his predecessor, would be inaugurated. France subsequently could not even obtain the adoption of the conference’s statement in the EU Foreign Affairs Council, as it was blocked by Britain. It is not far-fetched to assume that the French Socialists hope to attract Muslim voters, of which there are many, with their anti-Israel positions.
WHEN THE new Swedish government, dominated by the Social Democrats, was installed in 2014, one of its earliest actions was to recognize the non-existent Palestinian state. It well knew that if there were free elections among Palestinians in the West Bank, the genocide-promoting Hamas would most likely obtain a majority.
The Swedish government did not feel the need to act in coordination with its EU partners on this issue. The Irish foreign minister, Charles Flanagan, has stated that his government constantly considers recognizing a Palestinian state.
Against this background, the disappearance of the EU would mainly present advantages for Israel. If the office of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy would be abolished, a source of ongoing multilateral incitement against Israel would end.
The disappearance of the European Commission’s Legal Service would also be very positive for Israel. It is responsible for the one-sided opinion that the West Bank is occupied territory according to international law and that the settlements are illegal. Many leading international legal experts contest this position.
Whether the EU remains as it is, whether some countries leave it, or whether it is abandoned altogether, should not be of particular interest to Israel. If the EU disappears, the Common Market will most likely remain. So will collaboration in research and a few other fields of interest to Israel. There will also be a common interest in continuing to jointly fight terrorism, mainly that committed by Muslims. When countries will need to guard their own borders, this may make them more sensitive to Israel’s problems.
Finally, there is one great advantage to the disappearance of the EU. The Israeli population is substantially bigger than that of 14 of the 28 EU member states.
Another six have populations on the same order of magnitude. Only eight have much larger populations. Israel’s force in bilateral relations will greatly increase if compared to the current confrontation with the EU behemoth with its more than 500 million inhabitants.