By Ramona Wadi
During a meeting with the leaders of Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland, Benjamin Netanyahu revealed his antagonism towards the European Union in remarks which were “accidentally” transmitted to journalists. Voicing displeasure at the EU’s conditioning of relations with Israel, the Israeli Prime Minister urged the assembled leaders to influence the EU to “ease its conditions for advancing bilateral ties.”
The rhetoric used by Netanyahu is similar to a European trend that is gaining ground and used as leverage by politicians to garner votes. Among other issues, Netanyahu urged the closing of borders against African and Arab refugees. “I think Europe has to decide if it wants to live and thrive or if it wants to shrivel and disappear,” he stated dramatically.
The Israeli leader also expressed his displeasure at the suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, declaring that, “The European Union is the only association of countries in the world that conditions the relations with Israel, which produces technology in every area, on political conditions.” The EU’s emphasis on peace building, despite the ambiguity of its application in practice, is in contrast to Israel’s insistence on repression. Hence, Netanyahu has availed himself of the opportunity to deride the periodic insistence on adhering to the two-state paradigm and the EU’s clauses that regulate its dealings with Israel. In an attempt to project isolation, Netanyahu insisted that Europe is “cutting itself off from Israel” and its technological innovations.
Countries that “don’t care”, on the other hand, were lauded by the Israeli Prime Minister, who cited China and India as examples. The EU’s shortcomings over Palestine, which play directly into Israeli ambitions, were eliminated from the discussion, thus revealing the fact that Netanyahu is aiming for further restrictions on expression and policy in relation to Palestine. The general consensus regarding the impossibility of implementing the two-state imposition is not enough for Israel, even though the existence of the concept within diplomatic circles also serves as a cover for the purported willingness to negotiate. However, its mention as an obligation is enough to raise Israel’s hackles, the reason being that conditioning relations upon the so-called peace process invites international scrutiny of Israel’s constant violations of international law.
Supporting Israel, according to Netanyahu, is a safety measure for Europe. However, it is unlikely that the EU will go overboard with its rhetorical restrictions. It has ensured repeatedly that for every public criticism of Israel, there is a reciprocal gesture in favour of the colonial entity, thus striking a balance between support for Palestine and tangible overtures towards Israel. In short, it gives more or less equal importance to the oppressor as it does to the oppressed.
Yet the fact that Netanyahu has felt compelled to point out the EU’s shortcomings indicate more than anything else Israel’s efforts to restrain any outward expression or policy that runs counter to its own nefarious ambitions. He wants undue influence over EU policies. His comments indicate a twisted desire to extend further the policies that have disrupted and destroyed Palestinian lives for decades. The implementation of such tactics outside of Israel by an institution which, at least on paper, upholds and promotes the safeguarding of human rights, would appear to favour Israel’s track record of rights violations; it enables the Zionist state to cite as examples the countries and institutions which emulate its own agenda and thus deflect the slightest criticism of its breaches of international law through what is fast becoming an impressive overseas support network.