Posts tagged ‘european union’

April 2, 2012

Israeli-French Relations are Already Shaky

by Gedalyah Reback

Cross-posted in The Beacon: Israeli-French Relations are Already Shaky

The two countries have had a complicated relationship for decades. In the 1960s, French President Charles de Gaulle abruptly severed his country’s alliance with Israel in favor of ties with Arab countries. The French were suffering after the Algerian War of Independence, so Israel was hung out to dry.

But France is extremely important for Israel internationally on the one hand as a central player in world politics and secondly as the third largest Jewish country in the world (population, 500-600,000). It is essentially the capital of Jewish affairs in Europe like New York is for North America. But because of strong French nationalism and skepticism of religious communities, it also hosts a strongly Zionist-oriented Jewish population. It has been a major source for new olim the last few years.

But nothing characterizes the relationship more than the Gilad Shalit crisis. Shalit’s family is one of those immigrant families. He has dual citizenship between France and Israel, and he got several honorable mentions from the French president during his captivity. France also lent some diplomatic muscle to the negotiations for his release. It went well with what Israelis considered the best option for a French president. The Socialist Party isn’t considered as friendly or lenient to Israeli concerns or policies.

Sarkozy has tried improving the two countries’ relationship in other ways. But French politics make the relationship shaky. The European Union’s policies in the Middle East conflict also make a warmer relationship tough. Just last year, both Sarkozy and Obama were overheard talking about how much they distrust Benjamin Netanyahu. Things haven’t been easy.

But for traditional Jews in France, Sarkozy is a mixed bag. This year’s election has him saying just about anything to get himself votes, mirroring the flops Republican candidates have been making in the primaries. Not even two weeks ago, his Prime Minister very publicly said Jews and Muslims should give up their dietary laws and assimilate fully in “modern” France. This is a country where French nationalists have held public protests demanding true Frenchmen eat pork in recognition of pig’s place as a staple of a patriotic French diet.

The idea that anti-immigrant and anti-minority feelings are mixing with anti-Israeli politics is nothing new, and it worries Israel’s advocates that see it all exacerbating European policy against Israel. Since the Second Intifida started 12 years ago, attacks against Jews grew tremendously. The Anti-Defamation League is not missing this opportunity to again talk about the rise in anti-Semitism on the continent. That includes another high-profile Jewish murder, victim Ilan Halimi, in 2005. In France, Synagogue arson has occurred often. Attacks have becoming increasingly aggressive over the years.

Cross-posted in The Beacon: Israeli-French Relations are Already Shaky

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April 2, 2012

Quick Thought: Israel Should Join the European Union

by Gedalyah Reback

It’s a topic that isn’t broached so often. The reasons aren’t clear. It might have to do with Israeli hesitation toward Europe because of historical baggage. But considering the idea Israel might join NATO comes up every so often, it isn’t so much of a leap. So what keeps this off the radar? Shouldn’t Israel want to join the group?

There are negatives that I can think of, but as a personal exercise I’d like to cover the positives. There are immediate benefits and potential in all of them.

1. Movement

The benefit to Israelis would be the ability to move about Europe more freely and for longer periods of time. It would give Israelis more opportunities to study abroad and build relationships with future business and political partners in important countries from the UK to Germany to Poland. The reverse would also be a benefit. European Jews would more often visit Israel, probably with a heavy level of extended stays by students and retirees. This is something Israel has coveted for decades, a way of channeling more European Jews to the Holy Land to become permanent residents and citizens. It would probably launch at the least a small rekindle of European Zionism in the Jewish community there.

2. Money and Energy

Really these two topics are linked. Since 1992, Europe has added 2.5 million jobs. The opening of borders has let new import/export relationships develop, plus there is a higher-level, professional exchange of knowledge and business that would be incredibly valuable to Israel’s high-tech sector. Israel’s joining the Union would serve as free publicity for Israel’s start-up industry, plus even work in the reverse. With so many foreign interests investing in Israeli companies, the time is coming for Israeli entrepreneurs to buy up foreign assets for themselves.

The opening to tourists is the obvious and most easy-to-understand benefit of the whole project. With easier access to Israel for travelers, that means more cash for the tourist industry, taxes for the government and eventually government investment in various sectors that would in turn sell to continental Europe. Even if Israeli prices were to be equal to Western European prices, there would be extra cash flow.

A major sector that would benefit would be Israel’s growing energy market. Israel has always needed oil, but soon it will be producing natural gas. Depending on how large the exports can be, an internal EU market for fuel would be a major boon for Europe to welcome Israel into the Union and for Israel’s economy. Plus, a massive amount of research & development for alternative energy is happening in Israel. There are infinite possibilities for exporting an untapped and extremely interested market like the one that exists in Europe. It goes hand and hand with Israel’s other R&D, in high-tech.

Other benefits would be in certain import/export markets like cars. The potential for more cars on the road here could mean lower taxes for Israelis and more infrastructure development also. It could even make negotiating building highways in Palestinian territory easier if European automakers and the EU’s political power are behind the push. It would open up access across the country.

3. Customs and Security

The major benefit would probably be in customs, not even the probably infinitely better relationship with NATO. On the customs front, Israel would have more ready access to European travelers and cooperation with other countries’ enforcement agencies and border patrols. It would make monitoring any threats from militant Muslims in Europe easier, particularly from France or Germany.

As mentioned before, entering the European Union would be more reason to join NATO. NATO’s major benefit is its collective defense protocols. First implemented after September 11th, the attack on the United States was defined as an attack on the entire alliance, making the invasion of Afghanistan, overthrow of the Taliban and crushing of Al-Qaeda all NATO priorities and missions, not merely those of the US. Thus, an attack by a foreign power, whether directly or via an affiliated terrorist organization, could be designated an attack on all of NATO, and automatically trigger a cooperative counterattack against an aggressive country like Pakistan, Iran or potentially a future hostile Egypt.

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This is a very blanket list of positives to the idea. Ideologically, economically and defensively, the move makes a lot of sense. It’s worth exploring for Israel’s future in terms of infrastructure, external security and even the potential to attract more Jews to become citizens of Israel.

April 22, 2009

Israel & NATO

by Gedalyah Reback

Support Growing for Idea

According to a poll conducted by Jerusalem-based KEEVOON Research, Israelis would generally support joining NATO (54%), and by a wider margin support joining the European Union (69%). There are major differences between the two and particular reasons why there is such a wide differential in support.

Advocates from the right wing, like Daniel Pipes, have generally smiled on the idea. But the gesture has much, MUCH, wider support than people may realize. Diplomats in Europe have been vocal the last several years, plus European governments. These are just a few of the deeply reasoned articles that have pushed Israel’s joining the military alliance.

In fact, the support for the move jumped suddenly after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s election as Iranian president. Simply, a threatened NATO member would be backed by the might of a 28-member military alliance that included the United States, Turkey and all the major Western European countries. Considering NATO’s declaration in 2001 that the September 11th attacks constituted an attack on the entire alliance, precedent is already in place to consider terrorist attacks as military aggression. Hezbollah and Hamas would be frozen strategically.

Drawbacks

But the obvious drawbacks would be the need to limit Israel’s offensive liberties at war. As regularly as Israel has had to go to war (three times in less than three years), Israel would have to exert an effort beyond any other country in the world to minimize collateral damage and civilian casualties, otherwise risk weakening the alliance.

It might be used as an incentive to make a peace deal. But again this brings on the classic issues of hastey, unsubstantial accords that would break down like the Oslo agreements did in 2000. But joining a military alliance would partially necessitate Israel maintains its military strength, not reduces it.

Benefits

On the flip side, recent agreements between Israel and NATO might mean Israel would not have to make its joining depedendent on a quick peace deal. Entrance into NATO would allow the Israeli military more freedom of movement in the Mediterranean Sea and, for that matter, the Indian Ocean. It would be a strong deterrent if they were to join the alliance prior to a peace deal.

Israel and NATO have formally signed and implemented agreements to share intelligence and conduct joint exercises since this past December. Lobbying by the Israelis and an innumerable amount of Jewish and non-Jewish advocates abroad, in the US and Europe, has been strong since the aforementioned Iranian president’s election.

The major opposition to joining would probably come from Turkey, but the country already has a working military relationship with Israel. That relationship has even survived the second Gaza War. Israel and Turkey are holding more joint exercises soon.

Domestic Affairs

Joining the alliance would silence many isolationists and mutually empower those in favor of expanding Israel’s international relationships, plus activists for stronger social integration. Improving Israeli Arabs’ place in society with renewed socioeconomic and political attention would be a start, and would lead to a strong social core if Arabs can find themselves a place in a culturally Jewish country. So regardless of what deals the Israeli government does or does not make with the Palestinian Authority, there should be some benefit to domestic Jewish-Arab communal affairs.

Of course, opposition from the Israeli left might be stronger if it seems a NATO shield is being enveloped around Israeli military maneuvers in the West Bank and Gaza – not a major sticking point for Israeli Jews but certainly for Israeli Arabs. This again points to balancing military activity, which might be an impossibly vague requirement by some members of NATO in order to get full membership.

Like I said, there is a definite difference to the European Union idea, and I’ll give some attention to that in the next few days.

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