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Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Foundations of an Israeli Grand Strategy toward the European Union

Filed under: Europe and Israel

Jewish Political Studies Review 16:3-4 (Fall 2004)




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, however, symmetrical. The weaknesses of grand-strategic thinking in Israel on the European Union are much more costly for Israel than vice versa, though grave consequences for the European Union cannot be excluded. Therefore, taking “a look from nowhere,”4 it is up to Israel to seize the initiative in crafting a grand strategy toward the European Union, without waiting for the latter to better formulate its approach to Israel.

This article tries to help meet this Israeli need by suggesting some foundations of an Israeli grand strategy toward the European Union. It does so by exploring main misperceptions in Israel and the European Union, analyzing deep disagreements, and suggesting some principles for an Israeli grand strategy toward the European Union. It is hoped that the article can also help the European Union develop a high-quality grand strategy toward Israel that can advance the values and interests of both sides.5 That, however, is for EU readers to judge.


Israeli-EU Relations

Some elements of an Israeli grand strategy toward the European Union are in place, including policies to intensify economic and technological-scientific relations and some efforts to reach agreement on political issues. Thanks to reciprocal intentions and interests by the European Union and its member states, much has been achieved, including increasing economic interaction and scientific cooperation.6 Israel also works quite systematically to build up relations with a variety of EU bodies, such as the European Parliament. And bilateral relations with EU member states focus in part on Israeli- EU issues.

However, this is not the case in political matters, where the positions of the European Union, as supported by most of its members, are quite hostile to main Israeli policies. This is clearly evident in the sharp disagreements on the separation fence and the related International Court of Justice advisory opinion and UN General Assembly resolutions. And that is only one of many serious disagreements that inevitably damage Israeli-EU relations unless coped with on the level of “reframing” basic disagreements,7 rather than case-by-case debate. To progress in this direction, what is essential is a well-crafted grand strategy that assures coherent and consistent Israeli decisions and actions adding up to a critical mass.


Israeli Strategic Assets vis-à-vis the European Union

There is little benefit in crafting a grand strategy for actors that do not have assets for implementing it. However, that is not the case for Israel in its relations with the European Union. Megalomania has to be avoided, but a sense of powerlessness is no less counterproductive. Main strategic assets of Israel for reshaping its relations with the European Union are both positive, in the sense of benefiting the European Union, and negative, in the sense of potentially causing damage to it. They include, in no particular order:

  • Ability to influence the European Union’s role in Middle Eastern affairs, particularly in regard to Israeli-Palestinian relations, which in turn have an impact on the European Union’s global and regional standing.

  • Significant buying capacity that is of economic significance to the European Union.

  • Possibility to direct scientific and technological cooperation, particularly in security technologies and hi-tech, either to Europe or to other partners, especially in the United States.

  • Capacity to influence the soft power8 of the American Jewish community and its actions in regard to U.S.-EU relations.

  • Potentially, ability to strengthen and mobilize Jewish soft power in some EU countries.

  • Some influence on a number of EU countries resulting from strong bilateral relations.

  • However unasked for, helping EU decision makers to better understand the Middle East.

  • Direct help, mainly but not only involving intelligence, in coping with terror against targets in the European Union.

  • Potential ability, if pushed into a dangerous corner, to “throw surprises at history” and cause changes in the Middle East that are bad for the European Union.

  • A hard-power reserve capacity to help protect essential EU interests in case of ruptures, such as dangers to oil supplies.

On a deeper level, and in significant respects more important, are many common values and shared cultural traditions; a fundamental commitment of the European Union and its member states to Israel’s security, however differently envisaged; intense networks of personal and professional relations; European feelings of guilt for the Shoah; a comparable confrontation with Islamic fundamentalism, which is likely to pose escalating threats to the Union; and, most important of all, a shared interest and value of avoiding a clash of civilizations, improving relations between Islamic and Western actors including Israel, and achieving at least a quasi-stable settlement of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict and, in the longer run, a peaceful and prosperous “New Middle East.”

However, many of these Israeli assets are counterbalanced and often outweighed by EU assets that can bring many benefits or grievous harm to Israel. These are too obvious to need enumeration, but they lead to a very important conclusion that often is not given enough weight in Israeli policies, namely, that improving relations is more of an urgent need for Israel than for the European Union.


Dispelling Israel’s EU-Related Misconceptions

Getting rid of misconceptions is a major step in crafting an effective grand strategy. I will therefore start by mapping three major Israeli misconceptions about the European Union that spoil Israel’s attitudes and undermine its policies toward the Union.

Before doing so, let me explain my methodology in presenting the misperceptions. Following widespread practice in international relations theory and even more so in policy discourse, where states and multistate entities are often discussed as if they were single actors having a coherent set of interests and policies, I speak about Israeli and EU misconceptions as if referring to single, coherent, and consistent actors. This is clearly incorrect, both Israel and the European Union being pluralistic democracies with many differences of opinion. Thus, parts of the “Left” and the “Right” in Israel have some quite divergent views on the European Union, and in the European Union, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom differ in their attitudes toward Israel and its policies. Nevertheless, there are dominant core positions that are widely shared by main policy elites and shape most decisions. It is to these that I refer as opinions, positions, and misperceptions of the European Union and of Israel.

Turning to Israeli misperceptions, let me start with a “positive” one, which therefore is all the more misleading: namely, the hope, desire, and expectation to join the European Union within the foreseeable future, say, the next fifty years.9

It is quite amazing that no small number of senior Israeli policymakers who are familiar with the European Union cling to this misconception, a fact that I can explain only in terms of wishful thinking. This view ignores fundamental incongruities between Israel’s nature as a Jewish state and the state of the Jewish people on the one hand, and the European Union’s guiding principle of becoming an open and unified space without sharp distinctions between citizens of member states in terms of “insiders” and “others” on the other. However democratic and liberal Israel is and however much universal human values are part of its spirit, its reality and aspirations as a Jewish state and the state of the Jewish people make it “exceptional” and “radically different”10 from other states. This difference precludes Israel’s becoming a full member of the European Union even if invited to do so; while giving up this uniqueness would undermine Israel’s very raison d’être.

It is easy to give concrete illustrations, such as the contradiction between the Law of Return and the EU principle of free movement of citizens, even if realized in phases. Similarly, Israel’s desire to play a major role in assuring the thriving of the Jewish people as a whole is not congruent with EU values and institutions. On the different level of realpolitik, the European Union is very unlikely to regard Israel as a serious candidate for accession in the foreseeable future. Therefore, aspiring and hoping for Israeli membership in the European Union in the foreseeable future is a serious misconception. Recognizing that Israel will not and should not try to become a member, as opposed to multiplying cooperation agreements, is therefore a basic starting point for a grand strategy toward the European Union.

Not less erroneous and, in fact, much more damaging is the opposite misperception: that good political relations with the European Union are not really critical for Israel. Although Israeli policymakers are aware of the European Union’s importance for Israel, many of them think the special relationship with the United States can fully compensate for political disagreements with the European Union and that this will reliably be the case in the foreseeable future.

Yet neither what are perceived, rightly so in part, as anti-Israeli EU policies, nor trust in the United States, which may be exaggerated, can justify the conclusion that relations with the European Union are less than critical for Israel’s future. Not only do the Israeli economy and significant parts of its research and technology depend on cooperation with the European Union, but the latter is quite sure to become much more active in global affairs,11 in security policies,12 and to become even more involved in the Middle East.13 Taking into account migration together with confronting terror, the European Union will also become more active in relations with Islam. Furthermore, U.S.-EU cooperation is sure to improve because of shared interests even when not always seen as such, including with respect to the Middle East.14

Therefore, Israel should regard the European Union as a major global actor15 bordering on the Middle East and sure to play a signifi- cant role, for better or worse, in shaping Israel’s political-strategic future. It follows that much more strenuous efforts by Israel to improve its relations with the European Union are a must.

However, here the third misconception enters the picture – namely, that anti-Israeli attitudes and geostrategic views detrimental to Israel’s security have deep roots in the European Union. The corollary is that efforts to improve political relations will probably fail. This misperception is reinforced, however incorrectly, by a widespread image, also held by significant parts of the Israeli policy elite, that large parts of the European Union are anti-Semitic. This is reinforced by the increasingly revealed history of facilitation, both active and passive, of the Shoah by many European countries.

It is true that many actions by the European Union and its member states provide a strong empirical basis for the view that under present circumstances not much can be done to improve Israel’s political relations with the European Union without paying too high a price in terms of Israeli values and security. Recent EU voting patterns in the UN General Assembly reinforce this view. But one of the few clear lessons of history is that policies of countries and other international actors change with time and that other countries can play a role in bringing about such changes. Furthermore, within the European Union there is disagreement on aspects of Middle East policy and on attitudes toward Israel, increasing the probabilities of influencing EU policy as a whole by means of suitable policies.

An additional point is that if Israel had acted optimally to improve political relations with the European Union, without compromising its core values and interest, and failed to achieve results, then there would indeed be a strong empirical basis for the opinion that EU policies toward Israel are deeply rooted and rigid and nothing much can be done about them, at least for the time being. But that is clearly not the case, with Israel lacking a well-crafted grand strategy toward the European Union, investing relatively small resources in liaison with it, and making plenty of errors that cause ill will.

In sum, two alternative conclusions seem justified: either it is likely that relations with the European Union can be significantly improved, or one cannot know if this is possible without trying in earnest. For both conjectures, the implication is the same: Israel should make much more of an effort to improve political relations, too, with the European Union.


Deep Disagreements and EU Misconceptions

Doing so would be relatively easy were disagreements between the European Union and Israel superficial. Meeting or not meeting with Arafat, giving the European Union a little more or less weight in negotiating the road map, avoiding some offending Israeli remarks, and so on – these are relatively simple matters. However, there are deeper Israeli-EU disagreements regarding worldviews, mental sets, cultural assumptions, and understandings of reality. Furthermore, many of these disagreements reflect serious misconceptions by the European Union (which are sure to cause much damage to it, too), making them all the harder for Israel to amend.

Particularly serious and insidious are eight deep disagreements that, in part, also constitute serious misperceptions by the European Union:

1. If Israel would withdraw from nearly all the occupied territories, in which a Palestinian state would then be established, a stable peace would be likely.

A significant Israeli withdrawal is inevitable and constitutes a preferable (in the sense of least bad) choice for Israel, as increasingly agreed by Israeli heads of government, large parts of the policy elite, and a growing proportion of the Israeli public. But the scope and form of withdrawal and related security arrangements depend a good deal on expectations of the stability of the emerging Palestinian state and of the Middle East, as well as on agreements concerning the “sensitive” and very difficult issues of refugees and Jerusalem, as well as on linkages with relations with other Arab states.

On these matters Israeli and EU views diverge, with Israel being very aware of the instability of the Middle East and the doubtful viability and peaceful nature of a Palestinian state, in contrast to the optimistic EU expectations. In my view, mainstream Israeli evaluations are right in this matter whereas the EU position is a misperception ignoring all that is known about the socioeconomic, religious, and political dynamics of the Middle East. Unexpected shifts for the better cannot be excluded and should be worked for, but to base policies on them is reckless.

2. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a main cause of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism.

Related to the misperception discussed above is the EU hope that settling the Palestinian issue will significantly reduce Islamic hostility toward the West and terrorist attacks on it. Although some such effects are likely, Islamic fundamentalism with its hostility toward the West has much deeper causes and is likely to continue and also to escalate despite any Israeli-Palestinian accommodation – which, whatever is agreed, will be rejected and regarded as “treason” by fundamentalist extremists who will react by trying to increase terror.

This is a very deep disagreement that affects all EU policies toward Israel, the Middle East, and global geostrategic issues. As long as it lasts, improving Israel-EU relations will be very difficult. Nevertheless, when an Israeli-Palestinian accommodation is reached, however partial and temporary, or some event pushes this conflict off the main EU policy agenda, this disagreement will be less crucial and improving Israeli-EU relations will become easier as this misperception is set aside.

3. Israel should be a “normal” Western state.

A more fundamental misperception is the EU view that Israel is and should behave as other Western democratic countries. This is perhaps the deepest disagreement and the most serious of all EU misperceptions. It ignores Israel’s radical uniqueness, having been built by Zionism as a democratic Jewish state and regarding itself as the state of the Jewish people. Viewing Israel as a “normal” state also ignores its unique geostrategic situation as a border country between the Arab world on one side and Western Europe on the other, a situation that poses existential dangers having no parallel in the European Union and therefore requiring security measures that are difficult for it to understand and accept.

Improving the European Union’s understanding of Israel is therefore a sine qua non for upgrading relations, all the more so because the EU misconception of the very nature and “spirit” of Israel produces or reinforces most of the deep disagreements and results in EU demands and policies that Israel cannot accept.

4. Incomprehension of Israel’s nature as the core state of the Jewish people.

As mentioned, Israel regards itself as the “state of the Jewish people,” an idea that is basic to Judaism and central to Zionism. Although in some respects the relations between Israel and Jews living in other countries can be compared to the relations between other homelands and their diasporas,17 they are unique in their value bases, history, and contemporary realities.

Thus, Israel regards itself as responsible for the safety of Jews all over the world, deliberately discriminates in favor of Jews in its immigration policies, is very active in worldwide networks of the Jewish people, intends to take a more active role in claiming reparations and restitutions,18 and is considering ways to formally consult Diaspora Jewish leaders and institutions on Israeli decisions having significant impacts on the Jewish people as a whole.19

All this is hard to understand and even harder to accept for the European Union.

5. International law provides norms that are obligatory for Israel.

More concrete is the EU expectation and demand that Israel should act according to the present norms of international public law and respect the opinions of international courts. Israel, however, does not do so and cannot do so without endangering its security and fundamental values. This is clearly a cause of serious disagreements, both on the level of principle and of specific actions.

Undoubtedly, Israel can and should take international and humanitarian law more into account. But the deep disagreement stems from what I regard as a major EU misconception, namely, that present international law is a given that has to be applied, regardless of changes in circumstances.

Without going into the relations between social change and law in general and between forms of conflict and “laws of war” in particular,20 new security dangers require significant and in part radical innovations in international law and in the balance between human rights and collective security. A fateful illustration is the escalating ability of fewer and fewer to kill more and more with rapidly increasing cost effectiveness combined with proliferating extreme fundamentalism, which cannot be contained and reduced without new international norms.

Israel (and the Jewish people as a whole) are prime targets of such and other novel forms of attack and therefore have no choice but to pioneer the development and application of new norms fitting the threat.21 The United States, following the 9/11 attack, has reached a similar conclusion. The European Union, however, despite increasing exposure to novel forms of mass killing and terrorist extortions, still lags behind. The result is a deep disagreement with Israel, related to what I regard as a very serious lag of EU images of the reality behind ruptures in human history that require proportional shifts in global norms.

6. Israeli reactions to Palestinian violence must be “proportional,” harming only the perpetrators of terrorist acts and avoiding collective harm, as by the separation fence.

To continue on a concrete level, a good illustration is the EU demand that Israeli actions follow a narrow interpretation of the Geneva Conventions, which, in Israel’s experience, do not accord with the novel forms of attack to which Israel is subject. Thus, suicidal mass-killing terrorism cannot be reduced by “proportional” reactions. Lifesaving preemptive killing of terrorists, their commanders, and suppliers carries unavoidable risks of harming bystanders. And protecting the Israeli population requires, in the opinion of nearly all Israeli security experts, a security fence often going beyond the pre-Six-Day War borders and imposing heavy burdens on Palestinians not directly involved in anti-Israeli activity, though due proportions between costs and benefits in terms of human suffering should be assured (as decided by the Israeli Supreme Court).

It is hard to escape the impression that the EU position on these matters is based, consciously or implicitly, on the opinion that Israel should withdraw from all the occupied territories and thus assure peaceful coexistence and an end to terror, leading us back to a deep disagreement discussed above – which only intensifies the significance of the one presently discussed.

7. U.S. unilateralism and “new sovereigntism”22 is wrong and dangerous and U.S. support of Israel is a grave mistake.

Israel, clearly, has a radically different opinion, agreeing with U.S. positions and policies and eager for U.S. support. However, there is more to this deep disagreement: It is based on an overall reality image of the European Union that is different from the Israeli one and, in my view, dangerously wrong. This brings us to the next and last deep disagreement, which sums up all the rest.

8. “Readiness to kill and be killed” is an obsolete and dangerous attitude and use of violence as an instrument of policy is evil. Both are not tolerated by the public and are unnecessary, with few exceptions, in a world that is on the way to “Eternal Peace.”

All in all, EU views of the world tend to be optimistic, recognizing some dangers but regarding them as temporary, local, and susceptible to solution by mainly peaceful means. Correlated is EU citizens’ lack of readiness to risk their lives for what are seen as remote and doubtful causes, and EU member states’ inability or unwillingness to increase defense budgets as is necessary to make the European Union a major global actor in hard and not only soft power.

It is easy to explain this honorable image of reality. After the terrible experience of the two world wars and in the midst of the positive experience of building the European Union as a new polity sure to prevent war between its members, trust in an approaching “end of history” takes the place of “real-politics” – the bitter results of which are in the minds of all. Trust in negotiations and ultimate compromises based on common interests take the place of the threat or use of force, with some exceptions of “humanitarian interventions” where, too, the behavior of European units demonstrates little readiness to kill and be killed to save the lives of the innocent people entrusted to them.

The trouble is that this reality image is very doubtful, to put it mildly, in light of the historical experience of the Jewish people and of Israel. Israeli doubts about a “good world” rapidly in the making have regretfully been validated by global and regional developments, such as nuclear proliferation, threats by “crazy states,”23 and atrocious terror – which are at least as likely to lead within the foreseeable future to a “Global Leviathan”24 as to a peaceful world. Experience with Palestinian rejection of the far-reaching Clinton-Barak plan25 provides additional hard-data support for a view of the foreseeable future of the Middle East, and beyond, that is more malignant than benign. All this adds up to quite an abyss between the mindsets and reality images of the European Union and Israel. But before proceeding to some principles for an Israeli grand strategy toward the European Union, let me balance the evaluation by mentioning some additional Israeli misperceptions and relations-disturbing features.


Additional Israeli Misperceptions

Israeli decisionmakers suffer from serious misperceptions in addition to those already discussed. As illustrations from a larger set, let me mention six Israeli misperceptions, with some alternatives as espoused by different Israeli policymakers. Such Israeli misperceptions underlie disagreements with the European Union and, even more dangerously, distort much of Israeli policy thinking, decisionmaking, and action.

  1. Israel can maintain control for an undefined future over large parts of the occupied territories and retain most of the settlements there.

  2. The special relationship with the United States and broadspectrum U.S. support are sure to continue in the foreseeable future.

  3. A temporary and partial agreement with the Palestinians, leaving the refugee and Jerusalem issues for later, is viable. Or, alternatively, a vague agreement that is ambiguous on main issues is better than no agreement.

  4. Whatever Israel gives up, multidimensional violent conflict with Arab and Islamic states and nonstate actors is sure to continue, with agreements being nearly worthless. Or, alternatively, giving up nearly all the territories taken during the Six-Day War will result in a stable and reliable peace.

  5. Peace with Syria is not really important and related difficult decisions on withdrawal from large parts of the Golan Heights can be avoided without long-term high costs in terms of Arab- Israeli relations.

  6. International pressures can be resisted given strong will and good nerves, without too high a price.

Further discussion of these and other Israeli misperceptions that harm relations with the European Union is beyond the scope of this article, all the more so as their correction leads far beyond crafting a grand strategy toward the Union.26 But one conclusion should be emphasized: the “blame” for poor Israeli-EU political relations falls on both sides. However, according to my readings of history and present realities and dynamics, the European Union suffers at present from more serious misperceptions than do mainstream Israeli policymakers, many of whom have changed their mind on important issues following years of experience with Palestinian and Arab realities,27 whereas the EU learning curve is still in its beginnings.


Partly Different Mental Cosmos

To sum up, on some crucial matters Israeli and EU decisionmakers and publics at large live and act in quite different mental cosmos. Their Weltanschauungen (worldviews) diverge, and their ways of thinking about, imagining, and making sense of reality28 in part radically differ from one another. At the same time, Israel is in many respects part of Western civilization and shares with the European Union many fundamental values,29 reality perceptions, as well as pragmatic interests. Most important for the long-term future of Israeli-EU relations and giving cause to optimism is the European Union’s desire to assure the existence of a secure Israeli state within a peaceful Middle East and closely associated with the Union, however intense the disagreements on how to reach that goal.

This mixture of differences and commonalities poses the main challenge to an Israeli grand strategy toward the European Union.


Some Principles for an Israeli Grand Strategy toward the European Union

Based on the above analysis together with application of main approaches to crafting grand strategies,30 the following seventeen principles for an Israeli grand strategy toward the European Union are tentatively proposed:


  1. Realize the crucial importance of relations with the European Union for the future of Israel.

  2. Recognize and explicate shared long-term interests.

  3. Give high priority to improving relations with the European Union, including investing larger resources and avoiding inessential irritating acts.

  4. Understand better EU values, interests, and worldviews.

  5. Craft the Israeli grand strategy toward the European Union in close conjunction with the crafting of Israeli grand strategies on other crucial issues, such as relations with China, postures toward Islamic actors, and interaction with global governance bodies, so as to assure mutual consistency and positive interaction.31

  6. Move from debate on current issues to clarification of fundamental disagreements, with efforts to change some EU perceptions and worldviews, in part instead of futile “public relations.”32

  7. Reduce Israeli misperceptions about the European Union and issues in dispute with the Union.

  8. Strive to cooperate with the European Union on global issues, such as ecological concerns, dangers of a clash of civilizations, and revision of international law – including at UN forums.

  9. Map shared strategic interests and offer more cooperation in advancing EU political and security objectives, as long as these do not contradict main Israeli needs, including shared intelligence and contingency planning.

  10. Initiate shared professional discourse on long-range futures of the Middle East and on global geostrategy as a whole.

  11. Be more elastic in enabling and also encouraging closer EU involvement in Middle East peace processes, subject to safeguarding essential Israeli interests.

  12. Formally consult the European Union on major Israeli initiatives, unless secrecy is of the essence.

  13. Strengthen the cultural policy dimension in relations with the European Union.

  14. Delicately explicate the risk to the European Union of neglecting critical Israeli security needs, such as action against proliferation of weapons of mass killing (WMK),33 and of pushing Israel into a corner, including the possibility of mega-conflicts in the Middle East with much “collateral damage” to EU areas.

  15. Facilitate, in nonprovocative ways, the upgrading of Jewish soft power in the European Union.

  16. Insist on Israel’s higher moral ground in regard to the Palestinians, in view of the history of Israel’s far-reaching offers of compromise that the Palestinians rejected.

  17. Persist in demanding European support as a moral duty of theirs following the Shoah.


In view of the deep bases of disagreements between Israel and the European Union, relying on ad hoc action, changes in the personal composition of the EU bodies, “personal chemistry,” better public relations, luck, and so on is clearly not enough. Whether according to the proposed principles or others, Israel urgently needs to craft a grand strategy toward the European Union. The European Union, too, should significantly improve its grand-strategic thinking. But this is a task for the European Union to consider, while developing and implementing an Israeli grand strategy, aimed at improving relations and upgrading cooperation with the European Union including in political and security matters, is a task awaiting Israeli decisionmakers and strategic thinkers. However, crafting and implementing high-quality grand strategy, which is essential for Israel’s future, requires considerable changes in the Israeli political system and machinery of government. That, however, is a subject for another article.

*     *     *



  1. See Yehezkel Dror, A Grand Strategy for Israel (Jerusalem: Academon, 1989), Ch. 3 (Hebrew); Yehezkel Dror, Grand-Strategic Thinking for Israel, Policy Paper No. 23 (Ariel, Israel: Ariel Center for Policy Research, 1998).

  2. Strong ideological commitments can serve as motivations making achievement of the nearly impossible a reality, by “self-fulfilling prophecy” dynamics. But they can also serve as reality blinders and learning-inhibitors, through what has aptly been called “motivated irrationality.” See David Pears, Motivated Irrationality (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984).

  3. See Ali Carkoglu, Barry Rubin, and Barry M. Rubin, Turkey and the European Union: Domestic Integration and International Dynamics (London: Frank Cass, 2003).

  4. Thomas Nagel, The View from Nowhere (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986).

  5. To make a personal remark, I would not have dared express such an aspiration but for my extensive experience of working for the European Union on grand-strategic and structural issues, during my two years at the European Institute of Public Administration in Maastricht and afterward.

  6. As surveyed in N. Munin, The EU and Israel: State of the Play (Jerusalem: Israeli Ministry of Finance, International Department, 2003) (Hebrew). I am grateful to Dr. Sharon Pardo for drawing my attention to this publication.

  7. Applying the ideas of Donald A. Schon and Martin Rein, Frame Reflection: Toward the Resolution of Intractable Policy Controversies (New York: HarperCollins, 1995, reprint).

  8. In the sense of Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Soft Power: The Means of Success in World Politics (New York: Public Affairs Press, 2004).

  9. I limit strategic thinking to a maximum of fifty years, because we are living in an epoch of ruptures in historical continuity that makes longer range outlooks into doubtful speculations. This is by far longer than the time horizons of most strategic work, which tends to be much too shortsighted. Better to adopt a longer time frame with more uncertainty but still without being dominated by inconceivability, aided by uncertainty coping methods, than to try and improve policies within a short time frame that ignores minimum life cycles of main policies and long-term possibly dismal consequences. A good introduction to coping with uncertainty applicable to long-term strategic planning, based on RAND Corporation experience, is James A. Dewar, Assumption-Based Planning: A Tool for Reducing Avoidable Surprises (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).

    There are methods that may permit longer-range guesstimates. It would be worthwhile to experiment with such approaches on the subject of this article, perhaps as a shared EU-Israeli project with additional partners. Some of the best available methods for doing so are presented in Robert J. Lempert, Steven W. Popper, and Steven C. Bankes, Shaping the Next One Hundred Years: New Methods for Qualitative, Long-Term Policy Analysis (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2003).

  10. An important differentiation between “ordinary” and radical difference is worked out in Carl R. Hausman, A Discourse on Novelty and Creation, 2nd ed. (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1984).

  11. Although progress toward a shared foreign and defense policy is slow, the new Constitution, after adoption, will provide a strong basis for strengthening the European Union as a global actor. For a user-friendly version of the Constitution, see -en.pdf.

  12. See Report of an Independent Task Force, European Defence: A Proposal for a White Paper (Paris: Institute for Security Studies, 2004).

  13. For a somewhat dated but still relevant survey, see Søren Dosenrode and Anders Stubkjár, The European Union and the Middle East (London: UACES Sheffield Academic Press, a Continuum imprint, 2002). More up-to-date and comprehensive is Vassiliki N. Koutrakou, ed., Contemporary Issues and Debates in EU Policy: The European Union and International Relations (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004).

  14. See, e.g., Werner Weidenfeld et al., From Alliance to Coalitions: The Future of Transatlantic Relations (Guetersloh: Bertelsmann Foundation Publishers, 2004).

  15. See, e.g., Charlotte Bretherton and John Vogler, European Union as a Global Actor, 2nd ed. (London: Routledge, forthcoming, 2005).

  16. Especially pertinent are explanations of Islamic fundamentalism as, paradoxically, a result of modernization; and of Islamic anti-Western attitudes as rooted in the history of Western victories over Islamic countries and radical cultural differences. See S. N. Eisenstadt, Fundamentalism, Sectarianism, and Revolution: The Jacobin Dimension of Modernity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999); Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit, Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of Its Enemies (New York: Penguin Press, 2004); Akbar S. Ahmed, Islam under Siege: Living Dangerously in a Post-Honor World (Cambridge, UK: Policy Press, 2003).

  17. See the unique treatment in Gabriel Sheffer, Diaspora Politics: At Home Abroad (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

  18. This may cause increasing tensions with EU member states that often are very reluctant to meet demands for full restitutions and reparations, for instance in regard to real estate and objects of art. See Stuart Eizenstat, Imperfect Justice (New York: Public Affairs Press, 2004).

  19. Very significant is the initiative by the president of Israel to set up a “Jewish People Council” as a kind of consultative Second Chamber of the Israeli parliament.

  20. For an original and very pertinent historical treatment, see Philip Bobbitt, The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of History (New York: Knopf, 2002).

  21. See Yehezkel Dror, “Confronting Atrocious Evil,” Midstream, January 2003, pp. 18-20.

  22. For these concepts and their criticisms, see Peter J. Spiro, “The New Sovereigntists: American Exceptionalism and Its False Prophets,” Foreign Affairs, November/December 2000; further discussed in Peter J. Spiro, “What Happened to the ‘New Sovereigntism,’ ” Foreign Affairs, 28 July 2004.

  23. See Yehezkel Dror, Crazy States: A Counterconventional Strategic Issue (Lexington, MA: Heath, 1971; 1980 Kraus Reprints, enlarged ed.).

  24. See Yehezkel Dror, The Capacity to Govern (London: Frank Cass, 2002), passim; Yehezkel Dror, “From My Perspective: Lucifer Smiles,” Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Vol. 69, May 2002, pp. 431-435.

  25. The best description and analysis is provided in Dennis Ross, The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2004). The fact that the European Union did not play any real role in this process is significant.

  26. For an even broader perspective on present “capacities to govern” as inadequate for coping with complex problems, including global and regional security issues, with application to Israel and the European Union, see Yehezkel Dror, The Capacity to Govern: A Report to the Club of Rome (London: Frank Cass, Taylor and Francis Publishing Group, 2002, paperback ed.).

  27. A striking illustration is the statement by Prime Minister Sharon that parts of the settlement policy in the occupied territories were a strategic mistake.

  28. What I have in mind are “social imaginaries,” as discussed in Charles Taylor, Modern Social Imaginaries (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004).

  29. However, the idea of Europe having a Judeo-Christian civilization is misleading in underrating the radical differences between Judaism and Christianity. See, e.g., Trude Weiss-Rosmarin, Judaism and Christianity: The Difference (Middle Village, NY: Jonathan David, 1997, first published 1943); Tsvi Bisk and Moshe Dror, Futurizing the Jews: Alternative Futures for Meaningful Jewish Existence in the 21st Century (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2003), Ch. 10.

  30. As detailed in Dror, Grand-Strategic Thinking (note 1).

  31. This raises the need for multidimensional grand-strategic Israeli thinking, which goes beyond present political and institutional capacities.

  32. Interesting to try and apply is Howard Gardner, Changing Minds: The Art and Science of Changing Our Own and Other People’s Minds (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2004).

  33. This term is more accurate than “weapons of mass destruction” (WMD).

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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. His experience as a strategic planner includes two years at the RAND Corporation, senior advisory positions in the offices of the Israeli prime minister and defense minister, and two years working on EU policy issues at the European Institute of Public Administration in Maastricht.