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Israel in the EU?

05 January 2003

By Yisrael Ne’eman

As reported in Ma’ariv this weekend, Foreign Minister Benyamin Netanyahu broached the idea of Israeli membership in the European Union during his latest trip to that continent.  The idea is not new.  Not being able to integrate economically or culturally into the Middle East, as had been the dream of the earliest Zionist pioneers and thinkers, European patronage was considered the next best possibility.

The Revisionist leader Zeev Jabotinsky, whose ideology is the foundation for the Likud considered Britain the best option for guaranteeing Jewish security and independence in the Land of Israel.  His vision failed in the wake of British interests to appease the Arabs just before and during WWII.  Israel and the Jewish community world - wide are still not viewed as essential to the European interest, as is seen by EU “evenhandedness” when confronting Palestinian terrorism and Israeli counter terrorist activities. 

In the immediate post WWII period there was sympathy for the Jewish state as a result of the Holocaust, but guilt does not go too far in diplomacy and international relations, even if today there are those Europeans who sincerely claim they owe an eternal debt to ensure Jewish safety in lieu of European Christian persecution of Jewry over centuries. Military and economic interests count for much more than guilt, good will or the attempt to correct an historic injustice.  One must face reality, Europe has a large Moslem population which is anything but pro-Israel, and the continent continues to host a fair amount of deep rooted Christian antisemitism.

To make matters worse, in the immediate future the EU generally sides with the Palestinians in their demands for Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders, stripping Israel of historic Jewish claims to such places as the Old City of Jerusalem and Hebron (even should there be just a Jewish presence there).  On the everyday security level the EU does not recognize Israel’s rights to truly “secure boundaries” meaning an IDF deployment along the Jordan River and demilitarization of a Palestinian state.

The Europeans are tied heavily into Arab oil with companies known for extending aid to Iraq and Iran in their nuclear weapons programs.  Should Israel acquiesce to all the European demands, which does not seem likely, there is no guarantee the country would not be sacrificed in the name of European – Arab/Moslem relations in the future.  In short, although Israel stands to gain on the economic front, European trustworthiness is another question.

The other choice is a non-official alliance with the US, meaning a strengthening of the present relationship.  The Americans also have demands, but there is a realization of Israel’s security needs and a connection of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel.  The US is the only serious western power not known for a history of vicious antisemitism of the European or Arab/Moslem brand. 

American antisemitism and anti-Zionism is peripheral and pales in comparison.  Culturally and religiously both liberal Protestantism and the more conservative types in general find common cause and understanding with both Judaism in its universalist liberal outlook on the one hand and with Zionism as a sovereignty oriented Jewish state vision on the other.  The US Moslem minority is nowhere near the size and influence as it is in Europe.

As tempting as EU membership seems, the options must be weighed very carefully.