Tuesday 3 June 2008

Don’t count on Europe, by Zalman Shoval

From YNet News:

Israel must continue to rely on America, realize Europe cannot replace it

"The great crowd that filled the Presidential Conference’s venue in Jerusalem stood up and cheered for the presidents and prime ministers who made their way from Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe in order to honor the State of Israel on its 60th Birthday. Yet who wasn’t there? Not even one head of state from Western Europe: Not from Britain, not from France, not from Germany, not from Holland, Belgium or Luxemburg, not from Scandinavia, not from Greece, Italy or Ireland, not from Austria or Switzerland, and not from Portugal and Spain. Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos did come – but he’s a frequent flyer to our country in any case.

Let us not fool ourselves that this blatant absence was coincidental – and even if no official boycott on Israel’s celebrations was declared, the result was the same: The Western Europeans did not come. It therefore appears that many European foreign ministries still possess a “special” attitude to the Jewish State, and not in the positive sense of the word. It also turns out that anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiments, which are two sides of the same coin, have an influence not only in European public opinion and the media tone, but also in the corridors of the foreign ministries there.

European states indeed did not follow the example of United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who sent a special message to the Palestinians on the occasion of “Naqba Day,” that is, the day marking the “disaster” of the State of Israel’s establishment and Arab defeat in their war against it, yet the absence of their leaders conveyed in practice a similar message.

Foreign Minister Livni, and not only she, likes to talk about the “other Europe” – that is, no longer the almost-automatic adoption of anti-Israel positions, and no more hypocritical declarations such as the ones during the tenure of Chancellor Schmidt, that the Palestinians should receive an apology because the Holocaust of European Jewry seemingly prompted the establishment of the State of Israel.

Indeed, there has been a certain change for the better, and this change may be reinforced in the wake of the election of Berlusconi in Italy and Sarkozy in France – and even though we felt a little betrayed, and certainly disappointed, in light of reports that a French diplomat engaged in “talks” with Hamas, we should be praising the French president, as well as Chancellor Merkel, Berlusconi, and the British Brown for the tough positions they recently adopted vis-à-vis Iran.

At the same time, it appears that the spirit of appeasement in parts of European policy-making and diplomatic strongholds has not completely evaporated – and when we mention Chamberlain, it would be good to remember that he had a French partner called Daladier.

There have been some people around here recently who argued that Israel should rely less on America, among other reasons because in their view it won’t be the world’s only superpower in the future, once Europe becomes equal to it in the near future. Yet there is no greater mistake.

Not only does, in factual terms, Europe not compare and will not compare to America in the diplomatic and security sphere, Europe’s leaders are consciously not even aiming for this. Of course, any effort to improve and deepen our ties with various parts of the world, including Europe, is appropriate and important. Yet Europe, either old or new, cannot be a replacement for the US for us, not now and not in the future, and certainly not in diplomatic and security terms.

Even if the next American president would be a candidate whose declarations sometimes arouse concern around here, he will continue, in general lines, the traditional friendly ties with Israel with the backing of a massive majority in both houses of Congress, and that’s what really matters."

Zalman Shoval is a former Israeli ambassador to Washington

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