Turning back European pressure

Israel should fight back not in Europe, but in the United States.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hosts European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in Jerusalem, May 20 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hosts European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in Jerusalem, May 20
(photo credit: REUTERS)
THE NEW Netanyahu government has just been sworn in and the sharks are already circling. The EU in particular threatens a plethora of unpleasant measures if the “peace process” is not resumed to its liking. How fortunate it is for the Europeans, powerless in the face of Turkey’s occupation of north Cyprus (the territory of an EU member) or Putin’s little green men in Ukraine, that they can maintain a pretension to influence with regard to Israel.
Nor should Israel be lulled by US President Barack Obama’s pessimistic prognosis to the Saudi TV station al-Arabiya, in which he envisioned no major progress on the Israeli-Palestinian track this year because both leaderships are too timid and conditions will mature only when the parties themselves are ready to take the initiative.
Obama’s analysis, despite its tawdry evenhandedness, is accurate.
But Israel cannot assume that he will act accordingly.
For one, he would like to see Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu squirm: the personal animus factor remains. More importantly, Obama doesn’t want Netanyahu to play spoil sport when the US signs onto the nuclear deal with Iran. In a classic case of “leading from behind,” Obama can outsource the dirty work to the Europeans and then wring his hands over warnings about Israel’s impending isolation that have unfortunately been vindicated.
Israel, therefore, should be concerned about the mounting pressure in the offing. But it knows from history that yielding to such pressure is frequently suicidal. In a recent op-ed, former defense minister Moshe Arens compared the French intention to table a UN Security Council resolution dictating the terms of a final Israeli-Palestinian agreement to the brutal pressure exerted on Czechoslovakia in Munich, in 1938, by French prime minister Edouard Daladier and his foreign minister Georges Bonnet.
Arens understates the case: what Daladier and Bonnet’s contemporary counterparts, Francois Hollande and Laurent Fabius, are doing is worse. When Bonnet hectored the Czech ambassador to Paris Stefan Osusky with the demand “acceptez,” he was warning Prague that unless it yielded the Sudetenland to Hitler, Czechoslovakia would have to fight the Wehrmacht on its own.
What the Europeans are effectively saying to Israel today is that if you do not render yourself indefensible by surrendering Judea and Samaria, we will pile in as well. Then and now the promised guarantees to the target country – if it proved pliant and submissive – were and are worthless. France’s Maginot Line strategy meant that it could not and would not aid its East European allies against a German attack, while today’s hollowed out European armies make a mockery of the term guarantee.
Israel, therefore, has no choice but to push back. The fight though should not be launched in Europe, but in the United States where the terrain is more favorable. We need a full court press to secure the passage of “The Israel Trade and Commercial Enhancement Act,” cosponsored by Congressmen Peter Roskam and Juan Vargas, which would curb European enthusiasm for economic arm-twisting. As we are gearing up for the presidential primary process, it would be helpful to learn the candidates’ positions on this bill and secure their support.
There are also ways Israel can tackle the Europeans head on.
It has traditionally shied away from confronting the EU bureaucracy.
This doormat approach has only encouraged further encroachment on Israeli sovereignty. The EU, under the guise of engaging civil society, selectively funds and empowers groups from the radical Israeli left. In any normal country these groups would have to register as foreign agents, but Israel has refrained from passing such long overdue legislation. That policy has to change.
An alternative approach would be to flatter the EU by imitating its tactics. Israel, for example, could set up a “Giuseppe Mazzini Foundation” to foster liberal nationalist thought in Europe and help rally those opposed to the demise of the nation state and the consolidation of a failed European super state.
Contributor Amiel Ungar is also a columnist for the Hebrew weekly Besheva