Israel can't count on Europe - yet
The Europeans are willing to recognize Israel's right to exist, but generally do not take the trouble to learn the details and intricacies of the conflict in the Middle East. They prefer not to dirty their hands in this quagmire - unlike the Americans.
In his article "A German National Interest" (Haaretz, December 5, 2004), the German ambassador to Israel, Rudolf Dressler, couples the complexity of Israeli-German relations - against the background of history and the two countries' diplomatic relations over 40 years - with Israel's apparent need to strengthen its ties with Europe at the expense of its special relationship with the United States.
Germany is a friend of Israel and this can be seen in many areas. Nevertheless, it is noteworthy that those who are leading the pro-Israel policy in Germany are the majority of its elected officials along with members of academy. That, however, is not necessarily a reflection of the situation at all levels of society, perhaps because the German media has not been very fair to Israel in recent years.
In meetings with German ministers and members of parliament, we hear the concern for continuity and their doubts, as reflected in the question: To what extent will the Germans succeed in preserving their special attitude toward Israel when the generation of those who were teenagers during the Nazi regime and grew up during the rule of Chancellor Adenauer and others has passed on?
The German ambassador is aware of the unique position in which Israelis find themselves, in having to deal with a threat to their very existence. Germany and Dressler himself are allies of Israel. Consequently, his declaration that the international community must safeguard security for Israel is more than mere words in the case of Germany - but not in the case of Europe in general.
The Europeans are willing to recognize Israel's right to exist, but generally do not take the trouble to learn the details and intricacies of the conflict in the Middle East. They prefer not to dirty their hands in this quagmire - unlike the Americans. All they desire is peace and quiet in their own backyard. They make no demands of those who are responsible for the murderous terror; instead they expect Israel to show greater flexibility, and in doing so weaken their commitment to our right to a secure existence. Even if we take at face value Ambassador Dressler's declaration that the guarantee of Israel's existence is a German national interest, we cannot view this declaration as coming on behalf of all the members of the EU, whose positions in the international arena (including the International Court of Justice in The Hague) are quite different from those of Israel and the United States.
The United States' friendship with Israel is courageous and founded on shared interests, even in the post-Cold War era, and has proven itself countless times. Israel does not expect American soldiers to fight for it, as they did for Europe twice in the 20th century (in this context, it is difficult to ignore the ingratitude of most of Europe toward the Americans during the Gulf War). The ambassador calls upon Israel to "free itself from the United States," as if the Americans automatically agree with all of Israel's positions. Sadly, we must contend and compromise with the Americans too. Further flexibility on the part of Israel regarding European positions could lead to a dangerous erosion in its security.
There is no contradiction between continuing Israel's special relationship with the United States and bolstering its ties with the EU. On the contrary, this is a proper and desirable process. Israel has natural ties with Europe due to its geographical proximity and the fact that so many Israelis are of European extraction. Many Israelis speak European languages and closely follow political and social developments in Europe. Israel's commercial and economic ties with Europe are continually growing stronger; Israel has widespread scientific connections with European countries and it participates successfully in EU research programs. Tourist, cultural and sports relations have also become stronger in recent years.
Despite all this, it should come as no surprise to the Europeans if at this stage we prefer to rely mainly on our friendship with our greatest ally. When the change in their positions comes, our partnership with Europe will become stronger on its own.
The author is a Knesset member for the Shinui party.