Enlightened but Exasperating Europe

It is exasperating to hear European foreign ministers talking about "Israel's right to exist" as if it were being put to the test. Who's asking them? Will an Israeli foreign minister ever talk about France or Germany's "right to exist"?

There is no need to go as far as mentioning the Holocaust to explain the suspicion and the outbursts of hostility that Israel displays toward the amorphous but increasingly strong political entity called "Europe." There is also no need to recount the persecution of Jews in the Christian world, which is at the basis of the history that every Israeli child studies. There is a more recent example: the European countries' refusal to allow landings by planes in the American airlift during the Yom Kippur War, on their way to providing vital aid to the Israel Defense Forces. Only Portugal, where the dictatorial government was about to collapse, permitted the Galaxy transport planes to refuel at a remote island. The closing of the skies was interpreted as European readiness to sacrifice Israel, which was fighting for its life, for the pottage of Arab oil.

Fortunately, since then Israel has not been dependent on European generosity. And the crude self-interest of 1973 has been replaced by a policy of preaching morality. The secular, liberal Europe that has turned its back on the religious fanaticism and the murderous ideologies of the past is now sanctifying the religion of diplomacy and international law. This is a religion that sees any use of force, even against a murderous dictator and cruel terror, as a manifestation of primitivism. This is a religion in which the missionary fervor is no less strong than it was in the church that preceded it.

It is difficult to argue with the values that Europe is promoting, like democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights and concern for minorities. The demand that Israel withdraw from the territories and give independence to the Palestinians is also legitimate - as is the clarification that improvement in relations with Israel is conditional upon honoring European values. This arm-twisting has had results, and Israel is more attentive to Europe. The problem is that the Europeans are insisting on insulting Israel even when they are ostensibly supporting it. It is exasperating to hear European foreign ministers talking about "Israel's right to exist" as if it were being put to the test. Who's asking them? Will an Israeli foreign minister ever talk about France or Germany's "right to exist"? Are the Europeans talking like this in Damascus and in Cairo as well? The Europeans' votes in the United Nations are masterpieces of diplomatic cowardice, as is the European support for self-defense against terror while condemning the means Israel has used against it. And let us not forget the contemptible statement about "the way in which the right of return could be realized," which the European Union published in response to U.S. President George W. Bush's letter to Ariel Sharon, which recognized the Jewish settlement blocs in the territories.

Does Europe want a Middle East without wars, like at home? Please. But are Israel's neighbors prepared to accept it as a worthy partner, like Germany or France? Are the regimes and the economies suited to such a connection? And what have the Europeans done to encourage internal change in the Arab states, which are beset by tyranny and poverty?

Now the German foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, one of Israel's most important friends in Europe, is leading a diplomatic campaign against attacking nuclear installations in Iran. Fischer has told Israeli officials that the diplomatic effort against the Iranian bomb is of limited effectiveness but that it is still the only alternative. His warnings were directed against an invasion, as in the Iraq War, and ignored alternatives like focused attacks on weak links that would delay the Iranian project by a number of critical years.

The European dislike of the use of force is not a sanctified value. Inherent in it is the danger of resignation to a determined aggressor like the leadership of Iran. There must be no hasty bombardment of the Iranian installations, but giving up the military stick a priori weakens Fischer's diplomacy, and ultimately it will leave Israel alone facing the Iranian warheads. The main thing is that it will be in accordance with international law and UN resolutions.