On Europe's foreign agenda: how to handle Israel
The future of Israeli-European relations will be on the agenda when European Union foreign ministers meet today to broach the subject of Israel.
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A day later, when Israel said it would go ahead with plans for 3,000 homes, including in a controversial settlement known as E1. Several European governments, including those of France and Britain, summoned their Israeli ambassadors and threatened to recall them.Skip to next paragraph
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So far, that has not happened. And while the Czech Republic was the lone country to vote against the Palestinian state bid, giving the appearance of a united European front, in reality the 26 other European votes were divided, with 14 governments supporting the Palestinian bid and 12 abstaining.
But a new tone from Europe has been set – and from some unexpected corners.
Today the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a complex domestic issue in Europe, with overlays of historic guilt from the Holocaust at the same time that countries, especially France, have deep Arab ties. And with the recent waves of immigration that have coincided with rising anti-Muslim sentiment, fault lines are blurry and changing. The migration has, in some cases, created the fear of more anti-Semitism, and yet at the same time, some former anti-Semites on the far right have embraced Israel as they condemn the “Islam-ization” of Europe.
In France, all of those dynamics are clear. During a recent trip to France by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to attend a ceremony in the memory of four Jewish people killed at a school by Toulouse gunman Mohamed Merah, France’s President François Hollande said: “You represent a country that was created after the Holocaust to serve as a refuge for Jews.” “That is why every time a Jew is targeted because they are Jewish, Israel is affected.”
Today, David Bitan, a French and Israeli citizen, says he feels betrayed by France’s support of the Palestinian UN bid and was upset by the decision of several European governments – including Britain and France – to summon the Israeli ambassador to their countries earlier this week to express their disagreement with the home construction projects.
“It’s just baloney what people and governments over the world are saying to Israel,” he says, adding that foreign governments should instead focus their complaints on issues that he thinks are more serious and deadlier such as violence in Syria and Africa.