Everyman’s Strategic Survey: Israel and Europe ~ relations are (surprisingly) strong

downloadThere is a very informative article in Foreign Affairs By Toby Greene and Jonathan Rynhold entitled: “Where Israel and Europe Go From Here ~ Why Economic and Strategic Cooperation Have Never Been Better.” After explaining that “In the period since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s election in 2009, figures on the Israeli center and left have tended to speak gloomily about the relationship. Netanyahu’s policies have aggravated many European leaders, and in some parts of Europe helped mainstream a grassroots Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which seeks to ostracize Israel in civil society and undermine the very legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish nation state. “Europe,” as an opinion column in the liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz put it recently, “is beginning to tire of Israel” … [and] … The roots of the perceived decline in Israeli–European ties lie in the deterioration in relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the years after 2009, when Benjamin Netanyahu became Israeli prime minister. By 2012, the Palestinians, deeply distrustful of Netanyahu and facing a crisis of internal legitimacy, abandoned negotiations with Israel in favor of seeking international recognition, which culminated in Palestine’s acceptance as a non-member state by the UN. That move divided EU members, but Israel’s retaliation—new housing plans for the E1 area east of Jerusalem, which Palestinians argue is vital for the contiguity of a future Palestinian state—managed to unite them in opposition. In July 2013, the European Commission issued guidance to more explicitly ensure that EU agreements would not apply to the occupied territories. An EU move to label consumer products from Israeli settlements followed … [but] … The mood worsened in 2014, during a renewed conflict between Israel and Hamas. European cities filled with anti-Israel demonstrators: thousands in Berlin and Paris, and tens of thousands in London. The conflict also triggered a surge in anti-Semitism across Europe—recorded incidents doubled in Britain and France compared to the previous year. This increase, and the shootings of Jews by Islamist extremists in Belgium, Denmark, and France, led Netanyahu to call on European Jews to come “home” to Israel to escape “terrible anti-Semitism,” a call that upset French and German leaders keen to reassure their Jewish citizens … [and] … In late 2014, the parliaments of France, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom, as well as the European Parliament, passed motions in support of extending recognition to a Palestinian state, and Sweden broke ranks with its EU partners by doing so … [meanwhile] … the Netanyahu government’s illiberal legislative initiatives, including one that marginalized foreign-funded left-wing and human rights NGOs, led the EU to warn Israel that it risked undermining its democratic character … [and. finally] … Netanyahu’s reelection in 2015 with a narrower right-wing coalition apparently uninterested in a Palestinian state foretold worse to come. In the wake of US President Donald Trump’s election, key Israeli government coalition partner Naftali Bennett, leader of the pro-settlement Jewish Home party, argued that Israel should declare that “the era of the Palestinian state is over.” Netanyahu himself quietly dropped the phrase “two state solution” from his lexicon.

That all sound very grim, but, Drs Greene and Rynhold write that: “Yet the outlook for the relationship is at worst a mixed one. Israel’s economic and security ties with 384410761European states are strong. Meanwhile, a heightened fear of Islamist extremism strengthens the argument of those European leaders who believe they share common enemies with Israel, because they share common values” … [and, while] … It might seem, then, that Israel’s European standing is in freefall … in some ways, economic and strategic cooperation between Israel and European states has never been better … [as indicated by the facts that] … Imports from Israel to the EU hovered steady between 2011 and 2016 at around 14.8 billion dollars—a historic high—and last year, European governments bought record levels of defense equipment from Israel. Israel’s reputation as the so-called start-up nation is much admired on the Continent, as are its energetic academic and creative exports. All of this has helped restore some of Israel’s soft power … [and] … What’s more, for all the bluster from Israeli ministers that anti-settlement measures constitute a discriminatory boycott, the EU’s focus on settlements promises to leave most of Israel’s economy and population untouched. Less than two percent of Israel’s exports to Europe come from settlements. More important for EU members’ trade balances, Israel is an increasingly important market, with imports from the EU growing from 14 billion euros in 2006 to more than 21 billion in 2016 … [further] … European BDS campaigns still lack the support needed to make governments consider jeopardizing their economic ties with Israel, and in any case, many Israeli exports are intermediate industrial products, making a grassroots boycott much harder to implement. Some countries, notably France and the United Kingdom, have introduced legal measures to prevent boycotts. In Germany, despite recent tensions, the country’s historical responsibility for the Holocaust remains a significant feature of political culture, and any hint of boycotting Israeli products challenges a major taboo … [and] … History resonates too for former Eastern bloc countries whose Jewish populations were largely annihilated in the Holocaust. Some of these states are among Israel’s most reliable supporters. The Czech Republic stood out in May 2017 when its parliament voted overwhelmingly that Jerusalem should be recognized as Israel’s capital.

The authors conclude by saying that “When European political leaders visit Israel, they still see a recognizable rule-of-law democracy. This important perception—which underpins a sense of shared identity—hangs by two intertwined threads: belief in the possibility of a two-state solution, and belief that Israel is still essentially democratic … [but] … Both threads are fraying. If there is no hope of a Palestinian state on the horizon, it will be harder to resist comparisons of Israel’s policies to apartheid and popular calls for sanctions, and harder to support Israel during wars.

isis-reportedly-kills-us-journo-steven-sotloffThe Arabs, in general, and the Palestinians, in particular, are the current darlings of the progressive left, but the undeniable barbarism of groups like Da’esh/ISIL/ISIS makes it increasingly difficult for the progressive leftists to push for anti-Israeli measures that are, often fairly obviously, anti-Jewish. There is, also, something of a “flavour of the month” thing about left-wing causes and Israel might, just as easily, fall back into favour if the fact of extremist Muslim terrorism ~ and I assert it is a fact ~  frightens the left too much.

I have another concern … it appears to me that America (and Canada) and Europe are all getting a bit lazy, especially in things like hard science and technology education. We seem to me, at a societal level, to want our children to work less but still have more. We seem increasingly willing to let our young people avoid the hard courses: mathematics, the logohard sciences (physics, chemistry, etc) and the applied sciences and we appear, instead, content to import scientists and engineers from China, India and, yes indeed, Israel. Israel is a veritable hotbed of advanced scientific research and development: Israeli innovations are out of all proportion to its size. Israel’s Technion University is world famous and has satellite campuses in America and China! American and European leaders know that they need Israeli brainpower as much as they need Arab oil … maybe more. China and India may send us (or supply ‘tech support’ by) engineers and accountants, but the Israelis are selling us original, world beating research in many, many fields.

 

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