Foundations of an Israeli Grand Strategy toward the European Union

, October 21, 2004

Jewish Political Israel urgently needs a grand strategy toward the European Union. This is all the more so because the two parties disagree profoundly on fundamental issues and seriously misperceive each other. Israel has many strategic assets that it can use to improve its political and security relations with the European Union, but without a high-quality grand strategy these cannot be employed effectively. A first step is to dispel Israeli misperceptions about the European Union; more difficult is to cope with the deep disagreements and with the European Union’s misperceptions. Seventeen principles can help Israel craft a grand strategy toward the European Union, in conjunction with additional grand strategies that Israel needs to formulate no less urgently.

Crafting Israeli Grand Strategies

Israeli statecraft has had many successes, including the future-shaping, fateful decisions to declare the state’s independence, to build the Dimona nuclear reactor, to legislate and implement the Law of Return, and others. In some domains Israel has also developed effective grand strategies, such as ensuring that at least one major power supports Israel and others do not actively oppose it. After the demise of security cooperation with France, this led to the special relationship with the United States.

However, in important respects Israel has been weak in developing long-term and holistic grand strategies.1 Reasons, to mention just a few, include the pressure of current events, the strength of ideological thinking, dogma-caused misperceptions of reality,2 and the chain of successes culminating in the Six-Day War, which seemed to make deeper policy thinking unnecessary.

The lack of adequate grand strategies has been glaring in regard to settlement policy in the territories that came under Israeli rule following the Six-Day War, policies toward the non-Jewish minorities in Israel, and policies toward the Palestinian population of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. Weaknesses in grand strategic thinking are also evident in policies toward Europe, as illustrated by the lack of efforts to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) at times when this was easily possible, and nowadays by inadequate policies toward the European Union.

The lack of a grand strategy toward the European Union is a serious omission that could easily carry a high cost for Israel’s international standing and security, and also damage Israel’s scientific-technological and economic development. Israel’s responsibilities as the state of the Jewish people in acting against anti-Semitism in Europe and its complex relations with Jewish communities in EU countries only enhance the need for a carefully crafted grand strategy toward the European Union.

The need for more and better grand strategies is also pronounced in the European Union itself, as illustrated by its nondecisions on Turkey joining the Union3 and by weaknesses in coping with illegal immigration. Its policies toward Israel, too, are characterized by misperceptions and short-term considerations testifying to the lack of a grand strategy.

The situations of Israel and the European Union are not%2

About Prof. Yehezkel Dror

Prof. Yehezkel Dror is professor of political science (emeritus) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and founding president of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute. He has worked for the RAND Corporation, had senior advisory positions in the offices of the Israeli prime minister and defense minister, and has worked on EU policy issues at the European Institute of Public Administration in Maastricht.