Is ‘not our problem’ really the EU answer to deal with Iran’s bullying?

I usually try and inject a bit of levity into what are serious topics, but this week let’s dispense with the pleasantries and get straight into it. If anyone not connected to Israel was of the view that the government was like the proverbial lady and “doth protest too much” on Iranian intentions towards the State, they should have been rapidly disavowed of such a notion this week.

On Wednesday night, after the President Trump announcement that he was withdrawing from the Iran Deal, the Iranian regime decided to show the world and their supporters in Hamas and Hezbollah that it’s business as usual. We will come to that in a moment. But first a short look at the bigger picture.

You can dress the JCPOA deal anyway you like, but you still come back to the same truth: Iran wants Israel off the map. The response to this reality from Europe is therefore disappointing.

Because when a terror supporting regime – a regime we add that has almost singlehandedly caused the deaths of thousands and created a quagmire of epic proportions in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen – fires 20 Grad and Fajr rockets from Syria towards Israel, to see EU leaders turning their faces away and talk about ‘protecting their business interests’ in defending the deal is crass in the extreme. I am trying very hard not to sound sanctimonious here, but after the tragic spate of terror attacks in Europe, did Israel and its intelligence apparatus turn away and proclaim “not my problem”? No. It stood shoulder to shoulder, sharing intel, best practice and expertise garnered from sadly over 70 years of experience.

I have written about the Israeli maxim of ‘don’t rely on anyone else’ before. And some readers may have taken it as alpha male-esque arrogance, or worse as some kind of siege mentality or persecution complex: “Typical Israelis: they always think the world is out to get them”… To those of you nodding in agreement at this, we hope events this week served as a wake-up call (and just by the way, I’m not Israeli).

I allowed myself a wry smile when looking at the banner headlines and reporting on the ‘escalation between Iran and Israel’ this week. ‘Wry’ because the word ‘between’ suggests a kind of equivalence in motivation. As if the person who fights back against a bully constantly harassing him or her bears the same sense of responsibility as the bully for the ensuing events.

The language of the playground may seem out of place amidst the complexity of Middle-East, but in this case, back to basics is what is needed. Just because you believe that you have stopped the bully from bringing a weapon of mass destruction into the playground, it doesn’t mean you can let up on them, and worse reward them with money.

Donald Trump, for all his manifold faults, gets it. And he gets Israel. Maybe it’s a New York thing that when someone tries to hit you, intimidate you and ultimately is sworn to your or your friends destruction, you don’t play like Janus, looking simultaneously to the past and trying to predict the future. You deal with the present and how it affects you today, in the here and now. Foresight and speculation is a luxury only those unaffected can allow themselves. You must hit back.

Israel’s response should be viewed in this context. The State – let us remember the tiniest sliver of land that could fit 80 times into the size of Iran – effectively crushed Iranian forces in Syria. It appears to be a response more readily understood by neighbours notably Bahrain (also relative minnows in size terms) who actually condemned Iran’s attack.

But will Iran take the beating? It seems unlikely. Keep a close eye on Lebanon and the Syrian border, where we can anticipate Iran will lick her wounds (counting the Billions in Euros from European business interests with the regime will undoubtedly help), sit back for a while and let its friends in Hezbollah dish out some of the bullying and soak up any of the ensuing fightback from the Israelis. Sadly this is all very much business as usual. But hey, Macron, Johnson and Frau Merkel, not your problem right?

About the Author
Alex Benjamin is the director of EIPA, a multi-disciplined pro-Israel advocacy Group based in Brussels, with offices in Paris and Berlin. He is also the Director of Public Affairs for EJA: European Jewish Association, a Brussels based NGO which represents and acts on behalf of Jewish communities across the EU and wider European continent, at the heart of the European Institutions and at bilateral level with Member States.
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