Skip to content
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Europe-Israel Relations: Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty?

Filed under: Europe and Israel

Thank you, Dan. What I’m saying is that there is a half-full glass that we shouldn’t ignore, and what I put in this half-full glass is first and foremost the cultural and values basis. It’s even way before all the cooperation we have with Europe. We come from the same culture and we come from the same values, and that’s why we care about you, because otherwise you could have – you know, we have great economic cooperation with China. But we don’t care if China criticizes us and votes against us in the Security Council. You won’t hear any Israeli complaining about it. We don’t like it, but we don’t really spend much time complaining about it. But we do care about Europe because of this element of joint common values, and Israel was born to a large extent due to a decision made in Europe. The Balfour Declaration, mandate, that was given to the British government to reconstitute a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. That was a very big and important decision made by Europeans, basically, and by the way Japan also contributed to that. But basically the Europeans were behind it, and that was very important. But what happened to us along the years was not like that at the beginning. What happened to us along the years, that there was a growing gap between the way we interpret those values and the way certain elements in the West, and especially in Europe interpreted them, and we found ourselves moving dramatically to a certain interpretation that is much more common in the United States than in Europe to what is Western values. And the more we moved, the greater the gaps became, and the greater the disagreements became apparent.

But based on the fact that we belong to this Western world, that we are part of the Western world, that in many ways we are the protectors of the Western world against all kinds of challenges coming from the East, whether we chose it or just because of geopolitical situations, we became such. The cooperation between us and Europe as another part of the team were becoming bigger and bigger because of this commitment. We are playing for the same team. You know, Messi and Neymar, sometimes they have disagreements and they don’t pass from each other, but they used to play for Barcelona and they had that common game, common goal, and that’s the way we look at it. We have a common goal with Europe. We have a goal to protect the World Order that’s based on Western values. We have a big disagreement about what is the best way to do that. That’s where it is. Now I’m defending this goal. We are cooperating. We are cooperating such a long list of issues, and our contribution to this cooperation is not lesser than the contribution of Europe, and it’s a mutual contribution. We contribute a lot when it comes to security. We contribute an awful lot when it comes to counterterrorism because we have the experience, because we have developed certain capabilities and we excelled in those capabilities. We contribute today dramatically on the issue of cybersecurity, because we are a leader in cybersecurity. We contribute a lot on the issue of innovation because we are leaders on issues of innovation and startups and all of that. That’s why it’s a perfect match between us and Europe when it comes to economic and scientific progress. That’s why we have the Horizon 2020 and all these issues.

By the way, when it comes to counterterrorism, we wrote here a book on Israel’s response to terror, as to what lessons can be learned from that, and the European Union took our book and when Mr. Kherakov came here to discuss this book (that person was in charge of fighting terrorism) and for the European Union his version of the book was so full with yellow marked sentences that we enjoyed it, and yes we have a lot to contribute on all these issues, and we have wonderful economic relations that are expressed in trade and tourism, and educational cooperation, and so forth.

But then there’s the empty half of the glass. The reason it’s empty is because we have a difference of opinion about what should be done in order to protect the World Order, what should be done in order to even do the two things that Israel is directly involved in this respect, which is fighting terrorism and radicalism, and especially in this respect our commitment to prevent Iran from having the capability to produce nuclear weapons and to become the hegemon power in the Middle East. The second thing is what kind of progress can be done, and what are the conditions necessary to make progress in the context of our relations with the Palestinians? On those two issues, we have the same goals. I don’t think that Europe wants to see a nuclear Iran. I’m sure not. I don’t think that Europe is less careful about Israel’s security than Israel. They also care about our security. I don’t think that they don’t. But they have a totally different approach to that, and many Israelis, when they look at this gap, they try to understand why is Europe adopting a different position? Especially as we have an example of another party who adopted a much more positive position toward Israel’s positions, named the United States. So we are wondering, why is it like that? Unfortunately, out of this frustration, the Israelis came up with a long list of not very flattering reasons why the Europeans are like this. They are totally motivated by economic considerations. That’s the only thing they care about. They are fearful from the growing Muslim presence in Europe, so they want to please the Muslims. They have adopted a policy of appeasement.  That’s something deep inside their nature. Some even went up to all the way up to anti-Semitism and the question of guilt, and the need to, what you said in the end, to say, “Okay, Israel is treating the Palestinians the way the Jews were treated in Europe, so now it’s easier for us. Our course is to deal with our past when we blame the Jews.” A lot of reasons we are raising this, and all that came up to the conclusion that the Europeans are very hypocritical in this respect because they speak highly about values, but basically the way they act doesn’t reflect the values they speak about. This created a very negative approach in Israel toward Europe and that’s something that one has to look at. Many Europeans, in my mind, are trying to look the other direction. They cooperate with a very small group in Israel that is interested in promoting European attitudes in Israel, certain groups of NGOs and people on the extreme Left, but the Europeans spent a lot of money on promoting relations with this small group in Israel, totally ignoring the fact that the vast majority of Israel is moving in different directions and is very critical of Europe. This created even greater tensions because it was seen as if Europe is trying to intervene in the Israeli political process in a direction that is totally marginal in the Israeli electorate.

This exacerbated the situation, and if you look at the list of issues that like today between us endure in the Europeans, the attitudes of Europe just again move us in the problematic direction. I take, for example, one issue that I was deeply involved with. Dore has already mentioned Khan Al-Ahmar, explaining it, and that’s one very important issue in this respect. I take another issue that I was involved in. The Palestinian Authority pays 7 percent of its budget as salaries to terrorists every year. It’s more than NIS 1.2 billion that goes as salaries to prisoners that were terrorists and to the families of the martyrs, as they call it. Now, the Europeans don’t like it. It definitely doesn’t go along with the agreement they have witnessed, yes? Only in the agreement the Palestinian Authority was supposed to fight terror, not only not to encourage terror but to fight terror. Not only that they don’t fight terror. They encourage it. So the Europeans did come to the Palestinians and told them, “Listen. It’s not nice. Do something about it.” And the only thing the Palestinians did was for two years they removed, or moved, the ministry that was in charge of paying these salaries from the government to the PLO. But still they gave the money from the government to the PLO, so that the PLO would still be able to pay the salaries to the terrorists. Europe, instead of saying, “Hey, don’t cheat on us,” said, “Oh, we are so happy that you cheated on us,” and didn’t say anything after this happened.

This was really ridiculous, and even today, when the United States has enacted the Taylor Force Act and stopped paying money to the Palestinians as long as they pay salaries to terrorists, and Israel adopted the Stern Law that’s going to be implemented this month. That would cut from the money we give to the Palestinians after we collect it for them, the amount they pay in salaries to terrorists. Europe has not spoken at all about this issue. What am I supposed to think as an Israeli? That you don’t mind that the Palestinians pay salaries to people who try to kill me? I’m sure this is not the case, but if I just look at the revealed preferences of Europe, it prefers to give money to the Palestinians even though they know that this is the way this money is used. I raised it with many of the ambassadors, and not only do we know that it’s terrible. Yes, we are familiar with your paper, and so on so forth, but we are not going to do anything. Why? Because we are afraid that the Palestinian Authority will fall. We will stop the cooperation with Israel on security matters. Nothing of that’s going to happen. It is just an excuse. I’m not going to fall. When the issue of the narrative is raised, the Palestinian narrative that is all based on lies, is raised in the international community fora, the Europeans don’t vote against it. In UNESCO, unbelievable, on Jerusalem. What am I supposed to think as an Israeli? That you don’t think that Israel, the Jewish people, has a tie to Jerusalem? This is ridiculous, and the same goes to the Iranian issue. What has to be done in order to prevent Iran from having the capability to produce a nuclear weapon?

Now, I want to finish with reference to the new buzzword, okay? So the Europeans have adopted the new buzzword to explain why they behave the way they do. It’s called, “We have to defend the rules-based order.” “Rules-based order” repeats itself 100 times in every speech Europeans make. We are not against the rules-based order, but we are totally in favor of critically checking the relevance and the basis upon which these rules are based. To use it as an excuse is the wrong way. We cannot look at what the Iranians are doing and remain committed to an agreement that this was very bad right from the beginning, and ignoring the fact that the agreement didn’t bring about a change in the attitude of Iran. On the contrary. Just today, the Iranians tried to launch missiles that would bring a satellite to outer space. It failed. It doesn’t matter, but they tried. They tried. What do you think in Europe? What do you think? That this is done in order to improve the capabilities of mankind in exploring outer space? We are extremely concerned with those issues, and the rules base, according to which Europe tells itself that it has to be made to remain committed to the agreement instead of re-imposing sanctions like the United States did, is a poor excuse. I believe that what we have to do in order to improve relations is to have an open dialogue in which our vote, our concern that I was raising here, will be heard and addressed. Thank you.