Relations between Israel and Europe Are Better Than They Seem

July 19, 2017 | Toby Greene and Jonathan Rynhold

Popular European opinion about Israel has been increasingly negative since the 1970s. Moreover, EU officials as well as European politicians and diplomats are often eager to condemn the Jewish state, and left-wing political anti-Semitism is at its post-cold-war zenith. Nonetheless, argue Toby Greene and Jonathan Rynhold, Jerusalem’s relations with the Continent are, in many ways, flourishing. (Free registration required.)

Imports from Israel to the EU hovered steady between 2011 and 2016 at around $14.8 billion—a historic high—and last year, European governments bought record levels of defense equipment from Israel. Israel’s reputation as the so-called start-up nation is much admired on the Continent, as are its energetic academic and creative exports. All of this has helped restore some of Israel’s soft power. . . .

Political leaders who have opposed Israeli policies have found their ideological positions tempered by material interests. Greece’s far-left party Syriza, for example, was deeply hostile to Israel while in opposition, but has deepened Greece’s economic and strategic cooperation with Israel since taking power. . . .

[Furthermore], terror attacks in European cites, searing images of Islamic State butchery, and waves of Syrian refugees pouring into Europe have made it harder to sustain the idea that Israel is the source of Middle East instability, or the poison in relations between Islam and the West. European states especially value Israeli intelligence on the threats posed by Sunni jihadist groups (and to a lesser extent, on such Shiite militant groups as Hizballah). Moreover, when jihadists target European cities, it bolsters the Israeli narrative that frames Palestinian violence as driven by ideological extremism, as opposed to grievance at the occupation.

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