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

Israel and the Defense of Europe: A Role that Deserves to be Recognized

Filed under: Europe and Israel

When I served in the United Nations as Israel’s ambassador in the 1990s, there was an observation I had, based on the responses of European member states, and basically, actually not so much the European member states, but actually the other states. You know, before a critical vote occurs, you want to find out how you’re going to do. Who’s going to vote for Israel, and who’s going to vote for the anti-Israel resolution? So, when you go up to a whole number of countries: Japan. Go up to the Japanese ambassador and say, “How are you going to vote tomorrow?” He says, “Depends on the European Union.” What does Japan have to do with the European Union? But that’s what he would say. Go to another area. Go to Argentina and ask the Argentinian ambassador, “How are you going to vote tomorrow?” “Depends on the European Union.” Basically, you could go all over the world and get that same response. So the European Union had a ripple effect that’s huge and set the tone for the world.

Now when you get out of the Security Council, where the United States, Russia, China, the permanent five, have a veto power in the larger bodies like the General Assembly, the European Union is the superpower, and frankly the United States or Russia do not have that same diplomatic clout. That’s something which we always recognized, and the Israel mission to the UN dedicated huge resources to trying first of all to communicate with the European Union and second of all to put the European Union into its UN strategy, and sometimes it did work. At one time we defeated the PLO in a resolution in the General Assembly. It was sort of like man walks on moon, but it can be done. It just requires a huge amount of diplomatic work. I think that was the main point I wanted to share with you in terms of how we experienced the EU, and frankly, again, I don’t want to dwell on all the bad things. But there’s so much potential now. Back then, for the most of the Cold War, the main strategic challenge of Europe, the dividing line, was the dividing line of the Warsaw Pact and NATO. At the end of World War II, America demobilized. The Soviet Union did not demobilize, and therefore in Czechoslovakia and East Germany you had huge armored formations that could have sliced through Europe and been at the English Channel in a very short amount of time, and therefore you built a security structure to prevent that from happening.

There was obviously a European, a big European contribution, but if you didn’t have America together with the NATO countries, you would have faced basically having your civilization demolished. Today, that dividing line, that challenge, is not north-south in the center of Europe. That challenge is basically east-west in the Mediterranean, and anything that occurs that undermines Europe’s security from the Mediterranean is a civilizational challenge. Now, I don’t mean to drive a point. There is a country called Egypt, and now President Sisi has disclosed that Israel is working together with Egypt to try and help stop the military campaign of ISIS in Sinai. Now just as a thought exercise, think about what would happen if Israel said, “You know what? Why should we be involved here? They’ll just accuse us of being colonialists. We’re getting out,” and we let Sinai fall to ISIS. Step One. Step Two: ISIS takes over Egypt. How many Coptic Christians are there in Egypt? 12 million. 12 million basically, about. And what would they do with an ISIS victory, an impending ISIS victory in Egypt? We built a wall. They’ll go to Europe, and not only them. A lot of reasonable Muslims will go to Europe, and what you experienced from Syria and Iraq, with an addition of Afghanistan, that’ll be child’s play in comparison to what will come from Egypt, and therefore you’ll have the second wave of a huge challenge to your security. So frankly, anything we do, and I’m not going into details, anything we do with the Egyptians to help defeat ISIS in Sinai is protecting the security of Europe. Israel is involved in protecting the security of Europe, so we’re not going to write that on a bill and submit it in Brussels. But we’re hoping that you will be cognizant of the fact that you’re going to get energy from us and you already have security from us. So we’re hoping that the European attitude will adjust accordingly. Don’t take positions that are against your conscience. Don’t take positions if you think we’re doing something wrong. Frankly, in most cases we’re living up to the same standards that you have, but just don’t attack us when there’s no basis for it, and support initiatives that are prejudicial to the rights of the State of Israel in the international community.