There is a widespread belief among many Israelis and allies of Israel, that Europe is nearly or completely lost. A litany of reasons is given as proof. Longstanding European commercial ties to the Arab world are now joined with massive immigration from Muslim countries and higher fertility rates among Moslem immigrants. Studies of European public opinion find pervasive discontent with Israeli policy toward the Palestinians and a dislike of Israel’s leadership. Anti-Semitic attitudes and beliefs persist in many European countries and are growing in some. There is a fatigue with remembrance of the Holocaust. And all of this is compounded by generational change and a tilt to the left in a number of countries, bringing to power political leaders and parties whose links to Israel are weaker than those they replace.
This theory that Europe is lost discourages friends of Israel in Europe and beyond from doing anything, and it shrinks the international resources available to invest in pro-Israel activity there.
But is the theory true? Are Israel’s relations with European countries in fact on the decline?
Actually, there is a considerable body of evidence that Israel’s relations with Europe are growing, not declining. It was not until June 2000, that the EU signed its first Association Agreement with Israel. In 2005, Europe adopted the first EU-Israel Action Plan to expand relations. And just last year, in July 2012, the EU approved unprecedented steps to enhance Israel-EU relations in 60 trade and diplomatic policy areas, including increased access to the EU’s single market, closer cooperation on transport and energy, and enhanced ties with nine EU agencies. In October 2012, against fierce opposition from leaders of the BDS movement, the European Parliament ratified a critical framework agreement on Israeli industrial products, by a vote of 379-230. And in December 2012, an EU spokesman denied that Europe is likely to impose economic sanctions on Israel, and said that “the European Union continues to oppose boycotts, including boycotts of settlement products.”
The EU is also taking ever-stronger measures against Iran, Israel’s number one adversary. In July 2010, the European Council imposed a ban on investments in Iranian oil and gas, a ban on financial assistance to the Government of Iran, and a total embargo on Iranian purchases of dual-use goods and technology. In May 2011 the Council put 100 Iranian companies on the embargo list. In January 2012, the Council imposed a total European import ban on Iranian crude oil, petroleum products, and petrochemical products. In October 2012, the Council imposed a total import ban on Iranian natural gas, an embargo on key naval equipment and shipbuilding technology, prohibition of construction of new oil tankers for Iran, and limited EU financial institutions from dealing with Iranian banks and other financial entities outside Iran.
Israel’s special relationship with NATO has also continued to grow, building on the NATO-Israel security agreement signed in 2001, and Israel’s 2006 Individual Cooperation Program (ICP), ratified in 2008. Cooperation is increasing between Israel’s security services and NATO in counterterrorism, intelligence, joint NATO-Israel military exercises, cooperation against nuclear proliferation, arms development and procurement, and connecting Israel electronically to the NATO system. NATO military inventory codes are being applied in Israel, moving toward military interoperability in the future. Israel is participating within NATO’s Operation Active Endeavour, to help detect, deter and protect against terrorist activity and to improve the security of the region’s shipping industry. In 2012, Israel has also conducted military exercises with Greece, Poland, and Italy.
Europe continues to spurn Hamas, and is moving toward sanctions on Hezbollah. Most European countries showed understanding of Israel’s plight, when continued rocket attacks from Gaza forced Israel to initiate Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012.
Allies of Israel in Europe are increasingly standing up and are beginning to engage in effective political activity in key European countries. In some cases, there are friendly populations, Jewish or not, that are capable of doing much more.
The theory that Europe is “lost” or has already become “Eurabia,” holds these efforts back. It leads to hopelessness and alienation among potential activists, and it gives potential leaders and philanthropists an excuse not to lead.
Europe is not lost. Yes, there are problems, but there are also opportunities. There is a foundation to build upon, and the future will not belong to those who pile up lists of problems that are supposedly insurmountable, but to those who see the potential and act to build a better future.