Ariel Center for
Policy Research



NATIV   ■   Volume Fourteen   ■   Number 4-5 (81-82)  ■  September 2001   ■  Ariel Center for Policy Research




EU-Israel Relations:
Fraternity Between Democracies vs. Political Elasticity?

Ran Ichay

When considering the lack of political support for Israel in the international arena, we refer mainly to Europe. US-Israeli relations can be explained in several ways, but basically, American support for Israel is consistent and reliable, particularly in terms of public opinion on Capitol Hill.

Other countries are either non-democratic, or simply uninterested in the Arab-Israeli conflict. But there is one group of countries where democratic and moral values are – or are considered to be – a tradition. Despite this, many European countries prefer to support tyrannies and dictatorships in their consistent antipathy towards the only democratic state in the Middle East. The European countries, almost without exception, share their same social, political and moral values with Israel. Furthermore, the common European cultures, religion and civilizations are based upon the very roots that were planted by the Jewish people thousands of years ago. Yet these same countries choose the Arab-Muslim side – an ancient enemy of Europe, in the war against the Jews.

This picture may perhaps surprise and frustrate those who are not familiar with the true history of the trilateral relations of Arabs-Christians-Jews, and moreover, might not be acquainted with the alternative values which truly motivate Europe.

The tendency to lay the entire problem upon poor public relations on the part of the State of Israel vis-à-vis Europe is to oversimplify. Israel uses more or less the same public relations tools in the US with much better results. Needless to say, while Israel enjoys some short-term victories in the European public opinion and foreign policy forums, generally following a particularly cruel terrorist attack, the hostile attitude towards Israel in its struggle against the Palestinians or other Arab countries is much deeper and more profound.

There are several reasons for which the Europeans do not traditionally support the State of Israel. But beyond this, we must examine the extent to which this lack of support affects the State of Israel, both in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, as well as in the general arena of Israel’s foreign relations.

Despite high expectations, even after the Palestinian refusal at Camp David to accept an offer that will likely never come again, the nascent European support vanished just a few days later after clashes, initiated by the Palestinian Authority, broke out.

Over the years, Israel managed rather well without being backed by Europe. Although it has always expected such backup, Israel has never counted on it to materialize. Europe’s leverage over Israel is limited – although it does exist. Israel, unlike its neighbors, does not enjoy any bilateral aid from Europe, and the trade agreements it has with the EU are entirely reciprocal. Thus, any threats to suspend or harm extant trade relations will be of consequence, first and foremost, to several major European exporters.

There is no doubt, that from a regional point of view, proper bilateral relations between Europe and Israel are no less important to the Europeans than to Israel. It has been proven in the past, that any international body that has not maintained good relations with all parties to the conflict, failed to play a significant role in the region. The UN is but one example.

For the most part, over the years it is the US which has been the principal catalyst for the different peace processes – including the latter stages of the Oslo process. This enlarged role could only be played after having normalized US relations with Arab countries and gaining credibility with the Arabs.

Until such credibility is achieved by the EU in its attitude towards Israel, or by European countries in theirs, there is no reason for Israel to have the EU as a partner in the regional dynamics one way or another – after all, what is at stake is much more important than EU-Israel relations.

ACPR Contact usNativ Index