Home News War is turning European politics away from Israel

War is turning European politics away from Israel


In Europe, which has long been an important source of support for Israel, the political center of gravity is shifting away from the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Spain, Ireland and Norway recognized Palestinian statehood on Wednesday despite strong opposition from Israel and the United States. This week, most European governments offered unequivocal support to the International Criminal Court after it requested arrest warrants for Israel’s prime minister, defense minister and Hamas leaders.

Israel still has staunch allies within the EU, notably Hungary and the Czech Republic, while key countries such as Germany have shown no inclination to change their stance despite growing dissatisfaction with Israel’s behavior. Widening rifts within Europe mean the consensus-led EU won’t change its stance anytime soon.

But European countries face growing international and domestic pressure to take a firmer stance on Israel’s handling of the Palestinian territories, particularly the devastating war in Gaza.

Sweden has been the only EU member state to recognize Palestinian statehood for a decade. Europe has long supported the eventual establishment of a Palestinian state – a “two-state solution” that the Israeli government staunchly opposes – and expressed dismay at Israel’s handling of the Gaza Strip and occupied West Bank, but most countries are unwilling to go further. farther.

Instead, the EU was moving closer to Israel before the war, including through financially and politically significant partnerships in trade and science.

War and the way it evolves is changing that. European sympathy for continued support for Israel after the October 7 attacks is waning as the war continues, the humanitarian situation in Gaza deteriorates, and Israel looks less like a victim and more like an aggressor in the eyes of many.

EU members Ireland and Spain, as well as Norway, a country with close ties to the EU, took the next step on Wednesday by recognizing Palestinian statehood – a harsh rebuke of Israel, although it had little practical effect and was not a surprise. The three European countries have been outspoken critics of Israel and support the Palestinian cause, even as they condemned Hamas and its brutal attack on Israel on October 7.

If more neighbors follow their lead, the EU could become a major counterweight to the US position that Palestinian statehood can only be achieved through a negotiated settlement with Israel. This will deepen the rift between Europe and Israel.

Europe and the rest of the world have raised alarm and concern over Israel’s deadly and destructive attacks against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Attention is now particularly focused on Belgium, another EU country with deep support for Palestine, which has stepped up its criticism of Israel’s handling of the war.

“We’re certainly seeing more and more voices, including voices that were previously supportive of Israel, moving in the other direction,” Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser, said at a news conference. “We are concerned about that, Because we don’t think it contributes to Israel’s long-term security or vitality.”

The EU as a whole has maintained trade and other agreements with Israel, despite growing calls to cut off or significantly restrict them.

Since October 7, the positions of most of the 27 EU countries on the war between Israel and Hamas have been broadly similar and have undergone similar changes.

They were first disgusted by Hamas-led attacks that killed some 1,200 people and captured 240 hostages, supported Israel’s right to self-defense, and continued to want a two-state solution. They called on Israel to exercise restraint in its bombing, blockade and invasion of Gaza. Israel has since come under increasingly sharp criticism for its actions, which have so far killed some 35,000 people (combatants and civilians), forced most Gazans to flee their homes, caused food and medicine shortages and razed many buildings in the territory.

Support for Israel by countries such as Hungary and the Czech Republic could play a decisive role in determining what the EU can, and especially cannot do, in the Middle East. Austria has also maintained close ties with Israel, while other countries have criticized it.

Foreign policy is a national prerogative that EU member states compete to defend, and they cede many other powers to the EU. The organization’s positions on international affairs can only be reached by consensus, so a clear stance on Israel and Palestine is unlikely in the short term.

When ICC prosecutors on Monday requested arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yove Galante, most European countries, as well as the EU itself, took no public stance on the move but said they Respect Israel’s decision. Independence of the Court.

But Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said on social media Seeking the arrest of “representatives of democratically elected governments and leaders of Islamic terrorist groups is shocking and completely unacceptable.”

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban call it “Absurd and disgraceful.”

But the Belgian Foreign Minister haja rahbib says”, “Crimes committed in Gaza must be prosecuted at the highest level, regardless of the perpetrator. “

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France, the second largest country in the European Union, explain “France supports the International Criminal Court and its independence, and the fight against impunity in all circumstances.”

After several European countries formally took the step, France’s foreign minister said on Wednesday that recognizing a Palestinian state is “not taboo” for France, but the time is not yet right. “This decision will definitely be useful,” French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné said in a statement.

Although France has so far taken no independent action, last month France voted in favor of a UN Security Council resolution recognizing Palestine as a full member of the United Nations. Britain, which remains influential despite having left the EU, abstained from that vote.

The United States, France and the United Kingdom are all permanent members of the Security Council and have the right to veto any action by the Security Council. Only the United States has used this power, showing that the differences with Europe are widening.

The evolution of Germany’s position will play an important role in determining the direction of EU-Israel relations. Germany, the EU’s largest member state, has long shown a unique commitment to Israel due to its Nazi past and the Holocaust.

After the events of October 7, Berlin began to become the pro-Israel party in the EU, but now it is more openly critical of Israel’s war methods and calls for an immediate ceasefire against Israel and the United States.

Asked at a news conference in Berlin about recognition of Palestine by Spain, Ireland and Norway, German Foreign Ministry spokesperson Kathrin Deschauer did not signal any change in Germany’s position.

“An independent Palestinian state remains a firm goal of German foreign policy,” she said. She added that it was an urgent matter but had to come after a “dialogue process”.

Aurelien Breeden reporting from Paris, and Christopher Schutz From Berlin.

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