FLAGS OF numerous European countries on display at a European Union event in Slovakia..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Today, the relationship between Israel and our European nations and the EU could not be more important. When conflicts in Europe’s southern neighborhoods are contributing to the flood of refugees on its shores and terrorist attacks in its cities, and with a not unrelated rise in antisemitism, the interest of having strong relations is obvious. Sadly, political hostility between the EU and Israel has been growing. The recent association between the Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe (ACRE) and the Likud recognizes the importance of strong bilateral and EU-Israel relations and seeks to overcome the current hostile political climate between Brussels and Jerusalem.
In Israel, the thinking of “who needs Europe” has become more apparent while in Europe, the minority Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has at varying times received disproportionate, but thankfully small, political traction. There is a tendency in Israel to disregard Europe as a lost cause, and there exists a tendency among certain Eurocrats and some politicians to take hostile positions toward Israel. The tone of media coverage is often unhelpful.
As long as the EU, liked or disliked, exerts any sort of influence in regional and world affairs, bad EU-Israeli relations are detrimental.
Secondly, in a southern neighborhood devastated by wars and full of large yet untapped youth potential, it is both a European and Israeli interest to work together to make both our regions safer, more prosperous and more innovative. Israeli knowledge and expertise could be enormously helpful in this and the conditions should be created to enable such engagement. Intraregional south-south cooperation with countries such as Egypt, Jordan and others is to be strongly supported. It is in all our interests to cooperate and at the same time also work toward a lasting peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Arab conflict.
For Europeans to be seen as reliable partners in Jerusalem, they should acknowledge the Israeli narrative in the efforts at conflict resolution of the Middle East peace process. To encourage a warmer reception of Israeli concerns in the EU and European capitals, and for Europeans to fully understand the many layers and complexities of Israeli society, closer people-to-people contacts should be nurtured. This can only be accomplished with stronger relations between Israel and the European nations as well as the EU.
Thirdly, and maybe most importantly, good Europe-Israel relations are imperative to European and Israeli Jewry and should be cherished by all Europeans as they share a common European history.
The recent dark ages of antisemitism in Europe have resulted in an Israeli population where about half have European roots. Europe was the home of their ancestors before WWII and some still speak European languages and/or have dual nationality. It is this shared history and common European values which make our collaboration imperative in the fight against antisemitism and for the preservation of the Jewish heritage and communities in Europe and the Judeo-Christian tradition.
The recent ACRE-Likud association seeks to address the current political imbalance, promote EU-Israeli friendship and safeguard the well being of Jewish communities in Europe. During the upcoming bureau visit by members of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Group of the European Parliament, of which most members are also members of ACRE, they will meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister Yisrael Katz and discuss the friendship between the parties and future joint initiatives, as well as meeting politicians from other parties.
The outstanding collaboration between the ECR, the Foreign Ministry and Likud has created an excellent three-day visit, which will fully expose ECR members to Israel’s diversity, complexities and many regional challenges. In order for these MEPs to get truly acquainted with core Jewish values and Israeli culture, recognizing that some are long-standing friends of Israel, the visit will also include a tour around the Old City of Jerusalem and a visit to a field hospital along Israel’s border with Syria, a country with which it has no official relations. There, the MEPs will receive a briefing by the IDF’s spokesperson on how Israel views its security along its borders and in the region and how the IDF has continued to apply the core Jewish value of “whoever saves one life, saves the entire world” by caring for wounded Syrians.
The visit is very special for both parties as it is the first official visit by the ECR to the Holy Land and since Likud’s accession to ACRE. We look forward to cementing our conservative values, working together to improve EU-Israeli friendship and reinforcing the strong relationship between Israel and the countries we represent.The author is vice-chairman of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Group at the European Parliament and will chair the upcoming ECR bureau visit to Israel. He is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and ECR spokesman on security and defense. Formerly he was a senior British military officer.