Former Dutch foreign minister Uri Rosenthal 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel could improve the atmosphere of its relations with the EU if it shows it is genuinely concerned with Israeli-European relations, former Dutch foreign minister Uri Rosenthal has told The Jerusalem Post.
“I am sometimes amazed by the automatic, one-sided orientation of Israel toward the US,” said Rosenthal, in the country this week to deliver the Cleveringa Lecture in Tel Aviv.
“I am a fierce trans-Atlantic protagonist,” he said. “I am always defending a strong in-depth relationship between western Europe and the US, Australia and Canada. But that doesn’t prevent me from advocating for a more balanced Israeli approach between the Anglo-Saxon countries and Europe.”
The Cleveringa Lecture is named after Rudolph Cleveringa, who was dean of the law faculty at Leiden University in the Netherlands and on November 26, 1940, protested against the Nazi-ordered dismissal of Jewish colleagues. As a result, he was arrested and imprisoned.
The lecture is sponsored by the Dutch immigrant organization Irgun Olei Holland and the Dutch embassy.
When asked whether he felt Israel received a fair shake in Europe, Rosenthal, who is Jewish and married to an Israeli, said it would be incorrect to say Israel had been “cornered” in the EU, as it had been at the UN.
At the UN, he said, Israel is faced by dozens of countries that simply say “no” to anything it does or says.
“I would not say Israel is cornered on the European level; I would say simply that it is on the defensive,” he explained.
This was for two major reasons. The first is “the occupation” and settlements. The second has to do with the “psychological side.”
“The more the Israelis shout that when they look abroad they look at the US, and that Europe is not important, or that it is not relevant, that does not help,” Rosenthal said. “This gives those who take an anti-Israel stand something to grasp on to.”
He added that “it would be of much help if Israel would show a genuine concern for Israel-European relations.”
Rosenthal was foreign minister from 2010-2012. In Jerusalem he was considered among the most supportive EU foreign ministers.
Another way to improve ties with Europe, he said, is to “be more lenient on questions raised in the international community regarding the status of the occupied territories, and be more keen on coming up with concrete proposals” to solve the issue.
“My own grandfather was a rabbi,” he noted, “and he said we should consider Jerusalem a symbol of Jewish identity, but not in the literal sense.”