Europe loves Israel’s high-tech economy, but hates its nature as a Jewish state that won’t yield to international efforts to undermine its very existence. Europe is conflicted about the Jews, as it always has been, argues the Director of Christian Middle East Watch
Does Europe love Israel or hate her? Increasingly over the past few months the EU as a body and some EU states individually have been sending conflicting messages about their relationship with the Jewish state. Trade between the two increases apace, while wild, false claims of illegality and brutality persist.
As part of the “Quartet”, the EU has been a senior negotiating partner in the Israel-Palestinian peace process, but cannot claim to be a neutral interlocutor as long as it takes a biased position on final-status issues between the parties.
The most blatant example of this is the new EU funding regulations that come into force on 1st January 2014 by which Israeli companies in, or with branches in, the disputed West Bank territories will be ineligible to win major funding from the EU or its institutions.
Trying to force Israel to say that everything within the “1948 borders” is outside her jurisdiction is prejudging an issue to be decided by the Israelis and Palestinians by negotiation. The EU is effectively attempting to force Israel to accept a redundant armistice line as her international border.
Unfortunately for the bureaucrats who created this obstructive set of regulations, the EU was at the same time involving Israel in “Horizon 2012”, an €80 billion funding scheme billed as, “…the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever… more breakthroughs, discoveries and world-firsts by taking great ideas from the lab to the market.”
Horizon 2020 is not a handout by Brussels, it is a joint venture and Israel is the only non-EU country taking part. Her start-ups are the envy of the world and the EU contribution to the scheme will be a huge further boost to game-changing Israeli research and development in all kinds of fields.
So what does the EU want; to support Israeli research and reap the benefits down the line or wreck the whole partnership by excluding every Israeli company with connections, staff or offices in the disputed territories? Some frantic negotiations have led to a typical bureaucratic fudge that allows Israel to stay in the scheme and the EU to protest her occupation of and settlements in the West Bank.
Within the last week there have also been two seemingly contradictory incidents that illustrate the love-hate relationship Europe has with Israel. The Dutch state-owned water company Vitens has had an ongoing partnership with Israeli opposite number Mekorot, one of the most technologically advanced companies of its kind in the world.
The environmental challenges Israel presents to agriculture, industry and just plain living in a water-starved region have helped make Mekorot world leaders in desalination, water engineering and water quality, all of which were benefitting Europe through Mekorot’s links to Vitens.