Western Europe has long been hostile territory for Israel. Polls showing that Europeans deem Israel the greatest threat to world peace, judges issuing arrest warrants against Israeli officials for “war crimes,” unions launching anti-Israel boycotts, and Israel-obsessed officials like EU foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton are just some of the symptoms. But lately, there have been some encouraging hints of change.
Perhaps most notable was the Dutch parliament’s passage of a resolution this month urging its government to “encourage the European Union to resist the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state.” That is a rousing vote of support for Israel’s position over that of the Palestinian Authority, which recently launched a worldwide campaign to gain backing for such a declaration.
From the U.S. Congress, this would be unsurprising. But for a European parliament to side with Israel against the PA is virtually unheard of. What European bodies usually pass are anti-Israel resolutions — like the European Parliament’s endorsement of the Goldstone report.
Then, over in Germany, the conservative daily Die Welt — normally a backer of Angela Merkel’s conservative government — published a scathing front-page commentary this week criticizing her policies toward Israel. Written by the paper’s political editor, Torsten Krauel, the piece blasted Merkel for acting as if Israeli settlements were “the only remaining obstacle on the track to a quick Middle East peace,” when, in reality, Israel withdrew from both Lebanon and Gaza and got nothing in return but rocket fire from radical Islamists who promptly took over both areas. Merkel’s fixation on settlements, Krauel wrote, merely encourages Arab extremists to shun necessary compromises.
As the Jerusalem Post noted, Krauel’s piece remains an “anomaly within the mainstream German media.” But that’s precisely why it’s significant. European publics are hostile to Israel in part because European media rarely even let them hear Israel’s side of the story. Now, if Krauel continues this line, readers of one of Germany’s leading papers may finally get that chance.
Finally, there was British Defense Secretary Liam Fox’s speech at Israel’s Herzliya Conference this week. After reciting the de rigueur pap about how an Israeli-Palestinian peace could bolster efforts to contain Iran’s nuclear program, Fox said something remarkable: that the British-Israeli defense relationship “is a relationship that enables our operations, and in some cases, keeps British troops alive in Afghanistan.”
It’s true that Israeli technologies and counterterrorism techniques are being used in Afghanistan. But it’s rare for Western officials to acknowledge that; the bon ton these days is accusing Israel of costing soldiers’ lives on the spurious grounds that the Taliban or al-Qaeda in Iraq are motivated by rage over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The acknowledgment is especially remarkable coming from Britain, which has repeatedly slapped arms embargoes on Israel in recent years, and from a government hitherto far more anti-Israel than its predecessors. That implies that the pro-Israel sentiment is filtering up from troops in the field.
It’s far too soon to tell whether these are mere isolated incidents or signs of a larger trend. But it does imply that Israel’s supporters on the Continent shouldn’t give up the fight quite yet.