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

How the World’s Changing Geopolitical Panorama Affects the Future of Israel-Europe Relations

Filed under: Europe and Israel

Let me start on a positive note. Even if all the things that Dore has said until now are the whole truth and important, and I will say something more about that, but now let me tell you how the project went on and how the discussion brought us somewhere where I have really liked to be. First of all, it was a positive thought that inspired our work, otherwise we would not take the pain of inviting all of these people from all over Europe, and you know, we had here people that goes from Saad Amrani, who is the chief commissioner of the Belgian Federal Police. He was here, sitting with us one day long. We had Francois Heisbourg, who is one of the advisers of President Macron. We had Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata, who has been a Minister of Foreign Affairs in Italy. We had Volker Beck, who is one of the Greens in the Bundestag, very, very famous, and so many others that now and then we have asked each of them to write about the issue that was more important to them. Of course, all of us, the scholars of this institution, Freddy Eytan was the president of all the sessions, and helped very much in the work and gave also a very important piece explaining the roots of the problem between Europe and Israel. And so now we have this book, and this book will give the basis for everybody that will want to discuss the problem of the differences of the clashes, of the misunderstandings, that are really very serious, very, very important, and that as Dore said right now, since 1967 are a real torture and torment Israel, and we want them to finish. That’s the reason why we try to give here an overview of the situation.

Now I won’t go through all of them, of course, because it’s impossible and Dan will kill me so I don’t want to get to that dramatic point. But I want to give you, I want to tell you something that I thought just while coming here. I think that the situation is really changing very quickly. That’s my impression. I think that the new affirmative presence of Israel all over the international panorama is quickly expanding all over Europe too. This new affirmative presence in the international arena comes from several important points. One is the very prudent management of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel has put itself in a different position compared to the past, and I would be glad to answer two questions about that. I don’t want to enter into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is not the point, and then it is quite clear that the Iranian imperialism, even if the position between America and the United States and Europe are very different, and Europe has disapproved of the attitude of the president of the United States, it is still very influential even in Europe. I feel this around. I feel that the situation is changing, and we have seen that in the thing that you have quoted now – the fact that the sanctions have been imposed on Iran after the clear discovery that terrorist attacks were planned by the Iranians against Europe. I feel in this a change of mentality, a change of the situation.

And then also it’s impossible for the Europeans not to notice that the political Islam and the seven years of war, eight almost now, in Syria have changed completely the geopolitical panorama. This is something that Europe feels, and that changes its mind about Europe, not to talk about the internal change of Europe. Europe is in an economic crisis. This economic crisis is very much tied to immigration. The problem of immigration is very much tied to the Mediterranean geopolitical situation, and the reflection about all of these things brings to another evaluation of what Israel represents as the only democracy in the Middle East and the country that has always given immense advantages to Europe in every field: technological, medical, innovation, even in the field of how to cope with the Mocs. I think that something with democracy in a controversial situation. There are so many fields (not to consider now) –   the new opening space of the clean energy that will come from Israel through the Mediterranean Sea toward Cyprus and Italy, comprehending also some state that belongs to the Sunni (not sunny) to the Sunni side of the Muslim panorama, which means an inclusive point of view of the forces that can be positive and that are changing the geopolitical panorama of all the things.

Having said that, I will also say that the government has engaged in a very important fight that includes countries that were not included before. I mean, there has been some scandal about the fact that Israel has been speaking from such a close vicinity with the Visegrad countries, with the other group. What is it called? I’ll tell you right away, with the other group of countries that belongs to Eastern Europe, and we have seen that this inclusion in the European discourse of these countries has been extremely positive, has gone very well, and is pushing the situation toward a complex and larger, different attitude toward Israel. You can see this in countries that were not such before that. For instance, there are several things that can be noticed in Western Europe, like when Netanyahu visited May. When was it? In June for the Balfour Declaration, and there was the suggestion to May from the Palestinian side to renounce the Balfour Declaration. May declared her faithfulness and the good relationship of the British people with the Balfour Declaration, and therefore with the sovereignty of the Jewish people in its land. Sure, if it was not sure at that time, it came out sure at that point.

Italy is – we had already several visits, one of them here, of the deputy foreign minister, that declared while Europe is declaring that it is completely against the move of President Trump that decided to move the embassy to Jerusalem, the deputy foreign minister of Italy sat in this room with us and declared that he would like very much to see an institute of culture in Jerusalem, an Italian institute of culture in Jerusalem, while afterwards Salvini that visited here went even further and said that he would like to see the embassy moved. Of course, there are problems. Things go slowly, and whatever, but you cannot avoid seeing this, this kind of changes. So I see this kind of change coming, and we cannot ignore also that in May there will be elections in Europe, and these elections, as any kind of election, can change something. We’ll change something, according to all the polls.

Here I will jump to today to an issue, which is just the object of my own essay in here. … Do I have three minutes more? Thank you so much. I think that this Altalena to which Israel is always subjected by Europe, on one side great economic agreements and wonderful possibilities opening up all the time.  Horizon 2020 is one of them, but look just now that this agreement has to be renewed, somebody came up and said Israel must be punished for some reason. Israel must always be punished for some reason, so we have to review the agreement and maybe we will not proceed in the direction of having Israel as an effective member. Until today, it’s one of the outside members of the agreement, but they have been discussing a lot in the European Union about making Israel a full member. Now again, there is a discussion about that. You don’t know exactly what is at this moment Israel is being punished about, but it happens all the time like this. It was exactly like this also after the big agreement of 2013 that for the first time introduced Israel in the great relationship, economic relations inside the European Union from trade to research, whatever. Then, after a little while, the guidelines came up. You just have a gift, and after the gifts comes the punishment, and after the punishment there comes a new gift. And again, you have the same situation, and this is always a schizophrenic situation that designs the relationship, which is the best of the world and the worst of the world between the European Union and Israel.

Now I want to come to this kind of situation that pushes on the BDS, and somebody will say something about it. I promise I won’t say a word about BDS, but for sure BDS is connected to this process of de-legitimization that comes up whenever things become bad and the punishment is up, so the BDS immediately rises. Well, they are the one that pushes on anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism, anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is not the heritage of the past. Anti-Semitism is very, very present. The anti-Semitism that my essay here deals with is neither with many different heads, but here, according to many books and researchers that have been dealt with, and I myself, I’ve written several books about it. But here now we have a research that really strikes me because why do 85 percent of the Jews in Europe feel the growth of anti-Semitism? It’s a massive survey of 12 European Union states. Seventy percent of the Jews feel hostility in places like France, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands, while in Poland, Hungary, and Denmark it’s only 30 percent, and 85 percent say that Middle East events have a great impact in Belgium and France, while it drops on 1/5 in Poland and Hungary. So all of the older parameters fall. It’s not the Right wing – it’s also the Right wing, of course. I don’t want to – but it’s not the Right wing that produces the contemporary anti-Semitism. It’s all this mass of blaming that that falls on Israel and that makes the accusation. The first one that that is felt by the Jews, the worst is the comparison between the Nazi and the Israeli in regards to the Palestinians. This is the worst accusation that is felt in this new wave of anti-Semitism. This tells us something, tells us something that is a key to the general change of the relationship of Europe with Israel and with the Jews in general, and in the general recognition of the Jews as the natural… Let’s put it in reverse. The recognition of the State of Israel as the natural state of the Jewish people, which is something that has not yet passed in Europe, and I think that here is the main core of all the story. This is the first part of the things that I wanted to say.

Just a couple of points: We had here two points of view that were both very useful. First of all, I want to thank the ambassadors. We could to be so frank and direct, and it’s not something that happens every day to have such a great exchange of ideas. There is a factual point of view, which is the one that has been underlined by Dore most of all. What will happen if Europe and Israel will keep being in such a bad kind of relationship? What could happen? And the Mediterranean issue is just at the center of the attention, and I think this is something to be taken very much into consideration. We have a common fight, a common ground, a common geopolitical panorama that has to be faced together, and this is quite clear to whoever. Then, there is another stage that has been put under light by Schwammenthal and by Kuperwasser, which is the problem of ideology, which is so heavily loaded on the issue that we are dealing with today.  What I mean is that when we face the problem of the relationship of Israel with the Palestinians, which is at the center of every harsh discussion that we have between Israel and Europe, we must take into consideration the fact that the paradigm of colonialism, imperialism, that were just put on the on the ground so many years ago, and that was just happening after the 67 war, as Dore reminded. Nowadays, completely overcome by the fact the Palestinians had have been showing all along the times, and the three dramatic attempts by Israel to give them the territories that they requested, and then they refused, this kind of project has been overcome by the times.  The Palestinians, as an entity today, do not exist anymore. There are two entities. One is in Ramallah and the other one is in Gaza. So when you speak about “two states for two peoples,” you should speak nowadays of three states for two people if you want to be up to date. Now, I appreciate very much that the European Union is a peace project that wants to go beyond the borders and beyond wars. Israel unfortunately has a terrible problem of borders and war, and this is a matter of fact. It cannot be judged according to the European ideology. It must be judged according to its own historical and strategic problem.

Another point here: We have not said at all that the European Union is an obstacle to peace. No, it’s not, but the Palestinians are because they always refuse any project of peace and it’s quite obvious to anybody that will observe what has been going on. So there is no accusation to the European Union of having opposed any project of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The opposite. The problem consists of the fact that the European Union in a way has refused to consider the fact that the Palestinians have refused the peace. Yes, Israel may have done some mistakes, but if you go to the Israeli schools today and you hear the Israeli songs, and you look around at the Israeli organization for peace, and you see how many people here fight for peace and you see how strong is their issue of peace all over the Israeli society, well let me tell you that you will find a totally different learning for peace than you have on the Palestinian ground. And this is very sad that we have never seen this recognized by the European Union, because it’s something that is under there. So what I think is that today the European Union has to do, and is doing, according also to this hope of change that I think that has to be shared by whoever is here today, if there is the change, there is a change now in the situation for the reason that I put down before when I was just giving you some pieces of the lecture that I prepared before, and this is something that you will find in the book. No, it is not a negative book. It’s a book that learns and aims for change, and this is something very legitimate due to how the things have been going all along this year. It’s a very legitimate point, and if we start from this point that we had the right to learn for a change and that we want to change, this is a common ground and from this we have to start going on.