Likud supporters celebrate at party headquarters on Election Day.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
In what has been called a dramatic blow to international efforts to boycott Israel, a major bloc of parties in the European Parliament formally approved the Likud as a regional member over the weekend at a conference in Prague.
The Likud’s membership was approved by the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists [AECR], a conservative and euroskeptic European political party with 22 member parties and four independent members across 20 countries, including the ruling British Conservative and Turkish AK parties.
The Likud will join other regional members from outside Europe, including the American Republican Party, Australia’s Liberal Party and Canada’s Conservative Party.
“The agreement is historic, because it is the first time that an Israeli Center-Right party has been accepted as a regional partner of a European party,” the Likud’s Foreign Affairs Director Eli Hazan told The Jerusalem Post
from Prague. “It’s even more significant because the signing happened when Israel is fighting for its international image. There’s no doubt that this is further damage to the boycott Israel movement.”
The bond will enable the Likud to participate in AECR party meetings and actively influence decisions connected to Israel. Hazan invited all 76 AECR parliament members for a formal visit to Israel hosted by the Likud.
Hazan’s visit to London in January paved the way for the bond. He met there with Conservative Party officials, including Minister of State for Education Robert Halfon and parliament member Mark Field.
David Berens, a British Jew who is active in the Conservative party, made the connection between Hazan and the party. Hazan then formally requested membership in the AECR as part of an eight-member delegation at the European parliament in Strasbourg in March.
At the AECR conference in Prague, Hazan lectured about Likud and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and answered questions about the party’s policies before a vote and signing ceremony took place.
The AECR was founded on October 1, 2009 and officially recognized by the European Parliament in January, 2010. It is the third-largest group in the European Parliament and the fastest growing, bringing together 75 European Parliament members.
The AECR is led by a board of directors elected by a council that represents all member parties. The AECR’s president is Czech member of the European Parliament Jan Zahradil, and its secretary-general is British MEP Daniel Hannan.
The Likud tried unsuccessfully in the past to join the European People’s Party, the largest in the European Parliament, but was turned down because the EPP preferred to sign a deal with Kadima under Tzipi Livni. Since then, EPP members have supported requiring labels on Israeli products from over the Green Line while AECR members oppose the move.
Hazan has made an effort in recent years to build relations between the Likud and Center-Right parties across Europe.
“For years I looked for an address who could send me information about Israel and explain its situation in the region so I could defend Israel,” said Fernand Kartheiser, an MEP from Luxembourg. “I finally found Eli Hazan, who is like a second Foreign Ministry for Israel.”