With her unbridled hostility towards Israel, the EU’s foreign policy chief
Catherine Ashton provides us with an abject lesson in what happens when a
government places its emotional aspirations above its national
Since the establishment of the State of Israel, many of
Israel’s elite have aspired to be embraced by Europe. In recent years, nearly
every government has voiced the hope of one day seeing Israel join the
To a significant degree, Israel’s decision to recognize the PLO in
1993 and negotiate with Yasser Arafat and his deputies was an attempt by
Israel’s political class to win acceptance from the likes of Ashton and her
continental comrades. For years the EU had criticized Israel for refusing to
recognize the PLO.
Until 1993, Israel’s leaders defied Europe because
they could tell the difference between a national interest and an emotional
aspiration and preferred the former over the latter. And now, Israel’s reward
for preferring European love to our national interest and embracing our sworn
enemy is Catherine Ashton.
To put it mildly, Ashton is not a friend of
Israel. Indeed, she is so ill-disposed against Israel that she seems unable to
focus for long on anything other than bashing it. Her obsession was prominently
displayed in March when she was unable to give an unqualified condemnation of
the massacre of French Jewish children by a French Muslim. Ashton simply had to
use her condemnation as yet another opportunity to bash Israel.
preoccupation with Israel was again on display on Tuesday. During a boilerplate,
vacuous speech about President Bashar Assad’s slaughter of his fellow Syrians,
apropos of nothing the baroness launched into an unhinged, impassioned, and
deeply dishonest frontal assault against Israel.
The woman US President
Barack Obama has empowered to lead the West’s negotiations with Iran regarding
its illicit nuclear weapons program stood at the podium in the European
Parliament and threw an anti-Israel temper tantrum.
The same woman who
couldn’t be bothered to finish her speech about Assad’s massacre of children,
the same woman who is so excited about her Iranian negotiating partners’ body
language that she doesn’t think it is necessary to give them an ultimatum about
ending their quest for a nuclear bomb, seemed to lack a sufficiently harsh
vocabulary to express her revulsion with Jewish “settlers.”
As she put
it, “We are also seriously concerned by recent and increasing incidents of
settler violence which we all condemn.”
It’s not clear what “recent and
increasing incidents of settler violence” she was referring to. But in all
likelihood, she didn’t have a specific incident in mind. She probably just
figured that those sneaky Jews are always up to no good.
condemning imaginary Israeli crimes more emphatically than real Syrian crimes,
Ashton’s speech involved a presentation of the EU’s policy on Israel and the
That policy is based on three premises: The EU falsely
claims that all Israeli communities beyond the 1949 armistice lines are
It rejects Israel’s legal right to assert its authority over
Area C – the area of Judea and Samaria that is empty of Palestinian population
And it will only soften its anti-Israel positions if the
Palestinians do so first.
Aside from its jaw-dropping animosity towards
Israel, what is notable about the EU’s position is that it is actually far more
hostile to Israel than the Palestinians’ position towards Israel as that
position was revealed in the agreements that the Palestinians signed with Israel
in the past. In those agreements, the Palestinians accepted continued sole
Israeli control over Area C. They did not require Israel to end the construction
of Jewish communities outside the 1949 armistice lines. The peace process ended
when the Palestinians moved closer to the EU’s position.
antipathy towards Israel as personified in Ashton’s behavior teaches us two
important lessons. First, it is often hard to tell our friends from our foes.
Israelis – particularly those born to families that emigrated from Europe – have
traditionally viewed Europe as the last word in enlightened democracy and
sophistication and style. We wanted to be like them. We wanted to be accepted by
Indeed we were so swept away by the thought that they might one day
love us back that we adopted policies that were inimical to our national
interest and so weakened us tremendously.
It never occurred to us that
the fact that Europe insisted that we adopt policies that undercut our national
survival meant that the Europeans wished us ill.
They seemed so
The second thing we learn from Ashton’s anti-Israel mania is that
when we engage in foreign policy, we need to base our judgments about our
ability to influence the behavior of our foreign counterparts on a sober-minded
assessment of two separate things: our interlocutor’s ideology and his
interests. In Ashton’s case, both parameters make clear that there is no way to
win her over to Israel’s side. She is ideologically opposed to Israel. And the
citizens of Europe are becoming more and more hostile to Israel and to
These twin parameters for judging foreign leaders and
representatives came to mind on Wednesday with the publication of State
Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss’s critical report on the government’s handling
of the Turkish-government supported, pro-Hamas flotilla in May 2010. Perhaps the
most remarkable revelation in the report is that up until a week before the
flotilla set sail, led by the infamous Mavi Marmara, Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu was under the impression that he had reached a deal with Turkish Prime
Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Netanyahu believed that through third parties,
including the US government and then-Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, he had
convinced Erdogan to cancel the flotilla. He had a deal.
The fact that
Netanyahu thought he had a deal with Erdogan is startling and unnerving. It
means that Netanyahu was willing to ignore the basic facts of Erdogan’s nature
and the way that Erdogan perceives his interests, in favor of a
By May 2010 it was abundantly clear that Erdogan was not a
friend of Israel. He had been in power for eight years. He had already ended
Turkey’s strategic alliance with Israel. In 2006, Erdogan was the first major
international leader and NATO member to host Hamas terror chief Ismail Haniyeh.
His embrace of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood made clear that he was Israel’s
enemy. It is a simple fact that you cannot be allied with Israel and with the
Muslim Brotherhood at the same time. The same year he allowed Iran to use
Turkish territory to transfer weaponry to Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon
In 2008, Erdogan openly sided with Hamas against Israel in Operation
Cast Lead. In 2009, he called President Shimon Peres a murderer to his
By the time the flotilla was organized, Erdogan had used Turkey’s
position as a NATO member to effectively end the US-led alliance’s cooperative
relationship with Israel, by refusing to participate in military exercises with
THE NATURE OF the flotilla organizers was also known in the
months ahead of its departure for Gaza. The IHH’s ties to al-Qaida had been
documented. Netanyahu’s staff knew that the IHH was so extreme that the previous
Turkish government had barred its operatives from participating in humanitarian
relief efforts after the devastating 1999 earthquake. They feared the group
would use its relief efforts to radicalize the local population.
of itself, the fact that Erdogan was openly supporting IHH’s leading role in the
flotilla told Israel everything it needed to know about the Turkish leader’s
intentions. And yet, up until a week before the flotilla set sail, Netanyahu was
operating under the impression that he had struck a deal with Erdogan.
is likely that Netanyahu was led to believe that a deal had been crafted by the
Obama is not the only American leader that has been seduced
into believing that Erdogan and his Islamist AKP Party are trustworthy strategic
partners for the US. Many key members of Congress share this delusional
According to a senior congressional source, Turkey’s success in
winning over the US Congress is the result of a massive Turkish lobbying effort.
Through two or three front groups, the Turkish government has become one of the
most active lobbying bodies in Washington. It brings US lawmakers and their
aides on luxury trips to Turkey and hosts glittering, glamorous receptions and
parties in Washington on a regular basis. And these efforts have paid
Turkey’s bellicosity towards Israel as well as Greece and Cyprus has
caused it no harm in Washington. Its request to purchase a hundred F-35 Joint
Strike Fighters faced little serious opposition. The US continues to bow to its
demands to disinvite Israel from international forum after international forum –
most recently the upcoming US-hosted counter-terrorism summit in
Certainly Turkey’s strategic transformation under Erdogan’s
leadership from a pro-Western democracy into an anti-Western Islamist police
state has dire implications for American national interests. And the Americans
would be well-served to look beyond the silken invitations to Turkish formal
events at five-star hotels and see what is actually happening in the sole Muslim
NATO member-state. But whether the US comes to its senses or not is its
Israel had no business buying into the fiction in 2010 that
Erdogan could be reasoned with.
True, today no one in Israel operates
under that delusion anymore. But the basic phenomenon of our leaders failing to
distinguish between what they want to happen and what can happen continues to
Ours is a dangerous world and an even more dangerous neighborhood.
Everywhere we look we see cauldrons of radicalism and sophisticated weaponry
waiting to explode. The threat environment Israel faces today is
At this time we cannot afford to be seduced by our dreams
that things were different than they are. They are what they are.
have options in this contest. To maximize those options we need to ground our
actions and assessments in clear-headed analyses and judgments of the people we
are faced with. Their actions will be determined by their beliefs and their
perception of their interests – not by our pretty
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