Is a break-up of the EU good for Israel?

Despite this pessimistic outlook, the total disintegration of the EU seems largely theoretical. However, it is important for Israel to study the implications of such a development.

European Union and Union flags fly outside a hotel in London, Britain (photo credit: REUTERS)
European Union and Union flags fly outside a hotel in London, Britain
(photo credit: REUTERS)
There is currently much tension in the European Union both among member countries and in their relationship with EU leaders in Brussels. As a result, the continued existence of the Schengen open borders agreement, the euro and even the EU itself has been brought into question by leading politicians, such as EU President Jean-Claude Juncker and EU Parliament President Martin Schultz.
Despite this pessimistic outlook, the total disintegration of the EU seems largely theoretical.
However, it is important for Israel to study the implications of such a development.
An analysis of a possible break-up of the EU may help Israel understand how to proceed more effectively in its complex relationship with that body.
A more integrated EU would not bode well for Israel. There is by now ample evidence to support the prediction that the more power Brussels has, the more it will abuse it against Israel. This may be seen, for example, from the discriminatory labeling of settlement products and the financial support for extremist so-called humanitarian Israeli NGOs – in reality humanitarian racist bodies – which remain silent about the genocidal intentions of Hamas, the largest Palestinian party. The EU also interferes in the in the Israel-controlled Area C in opposition to Israel’s declared wishes, including financing housing for Palestinians there.
Double standards are at the core of anti-Semitism through the centuries. The EU has frequently applied these against Israel. The requirement to label goods from Israeli settlements – something not demanded for areas elsewhere which are similarly in dispute – made the EU bias against Israel so explicit that the Simon Wiesenthal Center gave the EU pride of place in its annual 2015 list of major anti-Semitic slurs.
In the first part of the previous century Jews suffered hugely from extreme nationalistic anti-Semitism. The EU is a supranational body. Member states have gradually been relinquishing elements of their sovereignty in its favor. Israel is a nation state which jealously protects its sovereignty.
The EU, by nature a sovereignty-absorbing entity, can hardly look favorably on it, despite its being a democracy. Today Israel is the target of supranational anti-Semitism, exhibited among others by the EU and the UN. This is much weaker than traditional, national anti-Semitism, but far from innocuous.
The recent massive refugee influx has made many more Europeans aware of the potential consequences of the partial transfer of national sovereignty to the EU. This has been highlighted in the loss of control over member nations’ borders. Experts in the UK are also concerned about the primacy of European law over national law.
Those EU member countries which are willing to accept the Brussels dictum and take in significant numbers of new immigrants disperse them over many locations.
Previous immigrants live usually in suburbs or neighborhoods of larger cities.
During the recent influx, large numbers of asylum seekers were housed in smaller communities. This has substantial social and political ramifications. Among many other problems, asylum seeker centers have become a focus for attacks by citizens against asylum seekers and the centers themselves, violence within the centers and attacks against local residents by refugees.
Tensions within the EU have oscillated over the past decades, Euroscepticism is probably currently at a historical high, partly due to the refugee crisis, which French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said is destabilizing Europe.
Anti-European parties in various countries, including France and Netherlands, are gaining in the polls. The EU’s opponents present many arguments, from the economic, citing the low growth of the EU economy, to the security-related, in that open borders facilitate terrorism.
The upcoming UK referendum on a possible “Brexit” – whether the country should exit the EU or remain a member – is another important milestone in the unfolding anti-EU events. The many arguments brought forward by Brexit proponents against the EU may serve Israel in its negotiations with that body. Germany’s domination of the EU, already sizable, will become even more problematic as a result of a possible UK exit. Wolfgang Schaüble, the German finance minister, has said that investors in Asia and the US may diagnose terminal decline in Europe if the EU cannot prevent the UK from leaving its ranks.
The foreign ministers of the six initial founding states, Germany, France, Italy, The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg, have recently been meeting on how to push European integration forward. This meeting took place against a background where the proponents of a federal Europe, although not fully defeated, have been pushed into a corner. For Israel, the difficult situation faced by the pro-integrationists is a welcome development.
A total break-up of the EU has both advantages and disadvantages for Israel.
Rather than dealing with the EU, nominally representing 500 million citizens, Israel would then have to deal with many smaller countries. This may be beneficial when such countries attempt to meddle in Israel’s internal policies, without the power of a supranational body behind them.
However, if the EU does disintegrate completely, countries such as Sweden ruled by an anti-Israel government dominated by social democrats may embark on more extreme policies toward Israel when not bound within the EU to seek compromise.
Although the absence of an EU may make it easier to face off against the Swedes, very undesirable precedents may be created.
In the light of all this a shrinking of the EU’s power and competences without an actual break-up would probably be best for Israel. All the more so if the euro is dissolved and the Schengen open border agreement is canceled. This would also mean a psychological trouncing.
The above analysis at this early stage can only be indicative. Yet it can serve to clarify