[Editor's note: this article is a transcription of a talk delivered by Richard Baehr at Temple Beth Israel, Skokie, Illinois Dec. 5, 2004]
I will explain today why Israel is viewed differently in Europe than in the United States. Specifically, I will address:
Europe's relations with the US;
Europe and its Jews;
Europe and its Arabs;
Europe and Israel;
Europe itself — the rapid changes in demographics, politics and economics that have occurred and are occurring on the continent.
When I refer to Europe, I mean Western Europe and the EU (all of Western Europe except Norway Switzerland, and Iceland).
As an alum of the Bronx High School of Science and MIT I have an attachment to numbers. So I will start with some important ones that emphasize my major point — modern Europe as a result of consolidation through the EU is experiencing a certain schizophrenia in terms of its role in the world.
1. Europe is a growing economic powerhouse due to the creation of a collective economy.
2. But Europe is a declining military power with a diminished role versus the United States' power and role — and this gap is more pronounced with Bush as President than before, given Bush's inclination to defend and promote what he believes are American interests despite some international resistance.
For the record, while I am not here to either endorse American actions in Iraq, nor to attack them (that can be my next talk), one argument Europeans, and many anti—war people in America made against the war is ridiculous — namely that the war was wrong and a mistake because it was not first approved by the UN. Since the UN was created in 1945, there have been over 200 international conflicts, of which 2 — the Korean campaign in 1950 and the Gulf War of 1991 — received UN Security Council approval. The current campaign in Iraq was unique in that it was preceeded by 17 UN resolutions that demanded behavior from Iraq that was not forthcoming.
3. And in case, you missed this in the papers, the French have been bombing the Ivory Coast the past few weeks. Needless to say, they did not get UN approval before they sent their forces in.
Let us look at some numbers: The EU now has 25 countries with a GDP of about 10 trillion dollars. The EU countries have almost 450 million people. The United States with 295 million people, has a GDP of about 11 trillion dollars, so obviously per capita GDP is higher here.
Add Turkey, and other Eastern European nations, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, and the EU could soon be well over 500 million people. Russia has another 150 million, Ukraine 40 million, though these countries are not currently considered potential members.
But there is little or no population growth within each country, and with the exception of some of the Eastern European economies, slow economic growth overall. In the US the 1950 population of 150 million has almost doubled 50 years later. In the US, we have replacement population growth from a sufficient birth rate, plus immigration into the US, mostly from Mexico and East Asia. Europe's population, which grew only 20% the past 50 years, is now stagnant, and headed down given sharply declining birth rates.
Europe has changed a great deal with the growth of the EU. Border controls between members states have ended. It is now like driving between US states. There is a common currency in many EU countries. The EU Parliament is moving towards a common foreign policy, and a common economic policy with control over individual country budgets (which would be similar to US federal control over state budgets). The EU is growing as a rival to the United States economically, and there is sure to be more economic friction in the coming years.
But defense budgets in Europe are dropping. The US defense budget is larger than the next 20 largest defense budgets in the world combined. The European solution is to resolve problems multilaterally, and not by military means. Why? If a military solution is required, then Europe must follow the American lead, and be in America's shadow. This is a dignity issue. If international problems are addressed multilaterally, then Europe is 25 EU nations, and in international forums like the UN, Europe has more than 30 votes, and the US just one.
But there is also an attitude or life style issue at play between Europe and America. Western Europeans want to believe that all international disputes can be resolved amicably, or as they call it, diplomatically, and multilaterally. Deal with diplomatic issues in Geneva or at the UN. Resolve economic problems in Davos. Address war crimes disputes in Brussels. The explanation for this somewhat na�ve view of addressing the world's problems is that Europe is militarily and spiritually weak and willing to appease those who might threaten the European life style. The Europeans' new ethos is the New York Times' editorial page social philosophy writ large: tolerance for everything — euthanasia, gay rights, drugs, abortion, Islam. The only intolerance that is allowed is towards Christianity and Israel.
Look at lifestyle issues. In the US, average hours worked per year is close to 1900. In Germany, it is now below 1400. Europeans work less, retire earlier, and are better secured cradle to grave through an extensive and expensive social net than we are here. But this social system is paid for with much higher taxes than I believe would be accepted in the United States. And the high cost to business to pay its share for this rich safety net means few workers are hired — hence 10% unemployment is a near constant level on the Continent. The population in Europe is aging almost as quickly as Japan's. Europeans have the lowest birth rates in the world. All countries in Europe except Ireland, have below—replacement fertility rates. Catholic countries such as Italy and Spain have an average of 1.1 or 1.2 births per female of child bearing age. In Northern Italy, the fertility rate (number of children per woman of child bearing age) has fallen below 1, a first in world history.
The most up—to—date demographic forecasts project that every single European country will have a smaller population in the year 2050 than today with the possible exception of Ireland and France. Ireland has a high birth rate by European standards. France still has sufficient immigration to counter declining fertility rates. Some of the former Soviet states already have declining populations. In Russia the death rate is now 1/3 greater than the birth rate. Russia may be half its current size in 50 years, as might some of the Baltic states. Italy is projected to be 1/4 smaller. Every minute on average, there are 3 births and 4 deaths in Russia.
So Europe's population is aging and declining, and workers want to work less. This creates huge social issues. Who will do the work that Europeans increasingly do not want to do themselves: maid service, child care, working with the elderly, dishwashers. Who will pay the taxes to support the social services which are skewed, as in the US, toward the rapidly growing bloc of the elderly?
Europeans have had largely homogeneous populations for most of their history. European diversity used to mean Hungarians living in Rumania. Basically the Continent was all white and largely Christian, except for Muslim areas of Bosnia, Albania, Kosovo, and Turkey, and the Jews of Eastern Europe. In the past 40 years, African and Asian immigrants (mainly Muslim in both cases) have come in to do the work Europeans do not want to do any more, and which Europeans so far can afford to pay others to do.
But the immigrant groups have changed the social dynamic. Crime is way up in center cities. European cities still have lower murder rates than American cities but higher overall crime rates in many cases. London's crime rate is twice as high as New York's. The new immigrants, especially the Muslim immigrants, have not mixed well with the native population,. Entire immigrant communities have taken over sections in major cities, particularly in France, Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Belgium. Half the babies born in Brussels are Muslim. The city of Malmo, Sweden, has become so dangerous that the fire department will not come for an emergency call in certain neighborhoods without police protection. And then came the bombings in Spain on March 11, and the murder of Theo Van Gogh in the Netherlands a few weeks back. Europe has been forced to think about the crazy aunt in the bedroom.
New pressures are emerging to restrict immigration because of its threat to societal homogeneity, and public safety. But there is a need for high levels of immigration to provide the warm bodies to do the work that needs to be done, and to contribute to the tax system to support the social safety net. This is, I think, an irreconcilable conflict.
Current estimates are that at least 20 million Muslims now live in Western Europe. Last year I met with the French Consul General last year to complain about French anti—Semitism, which of course he denied. When I told him that the French were kowtowing to the Muslim minority because it was ten times the size of its Jewish community, he cut me off to say there were only 4 million Muslims in France, not 6 million as I was implying. A year later, 6 million is the official estimate the French accept. There are also 3 million Muslims in Germany (mainly Turks), 2 million in Britain (mainly Pakistanis), a million each in Italy and the Netherlands (both mostly from North Africa). A recent article I read says the real Muslim population in France may be between 8 and 9 million, as illegal immigration, aided and abetted by Europe's new open borders, has brought more and more Arabs to the country in Europe where they were most numerous already— France.
One forecast I read suggests that France may be half Muslim by 2050 given continued immigration, and the much higher birth rate for Muslims than other French. Texas, on the other hand may be half Hispanic by 2025. But I don't think that this demographic change will necessarily affect Texas for the worse, and Texas will still be America. Immigrants to America, with the possible exception of some Muslims and Arabs, become American over time, like immigrant groups have before them. Will France still be French if it is half Muslim? David Pryce—Jones writes in a very fine article in Commentary this month that either Islam will be Europeanized or Europe will be Islamized. Middle East scholar Bernard Lewis put it more starkly: given the comparative birth rates (white Europeans very low, Muslims very high) and immigration levels, soon enough Europe will be Muslim, and the question will be answered.
The numbers provide important background to explain Europe's problems with Israel, and its seeming obtuseness and infinite patience in continuing to defend and financially support the Palestinian Authority with billions in contributions (while the money is continually diverted for terrorism and to support the lifestyles of the PA's thugocracy), and its near 100% support for Israel—bashing efforts in the UN and international bodies. One small sign of sanity was the petition by a French legislator demanding a full accounting of money sent to the PA. The petition gathered over 100 EU Parliament signatures, enough to require a formal response by the EU administration. That response was to send it to committee for further study. Remember that Europeans invented bureaucracy, and have perfected the art.
So why are the Europeans so hostile to Israel, and so sympathetic to the Palestinians?
There are a number of factors that I think explain European behavior towards Israel. I have identified seven of them:
1. Europe's dependence on Middle East oil.
2. Europe's rivalry with the US.
3. The growing number of Muslims and their militancy.
4. The small number of Jews, and their passivity.
5. The role of elites in Europe's politics.
6. Europe's long term disease of anti—Semitism.
7. The decline of Christianity in Europe.
1. Oil: The US obtains half its oil from domestic sources, and much of the rest from Venezuela, Nigeria, and other non—Arab or Middle East countries. Europe is much more dependent on foreign oil, and especially Middle East oil. If OPEC, and Middle Eastern nations use the oil weapon to punish the US for its policies with Israel and the Palestinians, or for war against Iraq, Europe will suffer more than we will.
2. Rivalry with the US: Taking a slap at Israel is a cheap and easy way to annoy the US and insert Europe in a competing power role. The US is 'too pro—Israel,' so Europe will be more balanced and nuanced, more multilateral, more understanding of the Palestinian side. The old argument was that only the US could pressure Israel, so Arabs needed to work with US as well. Now the European argument is that only Europe can work with the PA given America's isolation of Arafat and the PA. We have seen a similar logic in the French and German approach in the period leading up to the war with Iraq. Part of the resistance to American efforts may have been honest disagreement about the results of continued inspections. But a far greater part, especially in the case of France, was designed to spite the US and interfere with America's projection of power abroad. A final factor of course was money— the spoils for France, and Russia and Germany from the oil for food scandal, the largest financial scandal in the world's history, even though you won't find it on the front page of the New York Times (no room, what with Halliburton and Enron to write about).
3.Europe is afraid of its Muslims. There is fear that if Europe behaves towards the PA the way the US does, that the terrorism of 9/11 and the terror that Israel experiences would explode over into Europe's streets. This explains why Spain voted for appeasement of al Qaeda after the train attacks of 3/11. This is why the violence against Europe's Jews is explained away as youth vandalism, not as racist hate crimes. Europe's police forces are also not made of the same stuff as New York's finest. Not all European police are as pathetic as the British in terms of avoiding the use of firearms for police officers and security personnel, but that is the trend. The Muslim gang members who commit crimes against Europe's Jews have no fear of the police in European cities as criminals might in major US cities. Yes, Muslims in Europe are often treated as second class citizens, and they are resentful. But most of this resentment comes from the hostility that is bred into those who attend the mosques of Europe, and learn from the imams trained in Saudi style Wahhabism in the Saudi Kingdom or Pakistan. The Muslims in Europe are by and large not integrated into the fabric of their societies, but much of this is not a result of discrimination, but a conscious decision to remain outside the new secular Europe. Islam after all is at heart both a religion, and an aggressive political movement. There is no separation of church and state in Islam. Radical Islam intends to dominate and overwhelm Europe.
There is also little intermarriage by immigrants in Europe. In the US 10 % of blacks marry whites, 50% of Asians marry non—Asians, and as we know about half of Jews marry non Jews.
4. There are few Jews left in Europe: Other than France and Britain there are not many Jews around in Europe today. The total Jewish population is a little over a million in Western Europe, and merely a handful in Eastern Europe other than the former Soviet republics. There has been a little Jewish revival in Germany caused by immigration from the Soviet Union. So we see declining numbers everywhere else — aging population, low birth rate, high intermarriage rate. Does this sound familiar? Unlike the US, the Jewish communities in Europe are in many cases remnants of once larger communities, and are not politically assertive. There is no European equivalent of AIPAC, and Jews lack a meaningful political voice. Most European Jews before 1939 lived in Eastern Europe, not Western Europe. France has twice as many Jews today as it did in 1939 as a result of getting a sizable share of the Sephardic Jews expelled from Arab countries after the creation of the state of Israel — particularly from Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. Western Europe may have lost a million Jews in the Holocaust, while Eastern Europe lost 5 million.
Interestingly, in Eastern Europe (other than in the former Soviet bloc), being Jewish is now becoming a bit trendy, even hot in some cases. In Slovenia, my wife's native country, with perhaps 500 Jews, a major magazine had a ten page story on the Jews of Slovenia (that's 50 Jews per page), the President lit Chanukah candles, and the first synagogue in almost 500 years has just been opened in the capital of Ljubljana. There is a sort of philo—Semitism in some other Eastern European countries as well, including Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and amazingly enough, even in Poland. Jews or partial Jews are coming out of the woodwork. While this is better than the situation that existed in these countries for decades or centuries in some cases, the Jews who remain are in some respect museum pieces or curiosities, and the communities belong to history.
In Western Europe, however, Jews are looking for cover. Wear a yamulka in a public places, and you could become a target. Eat at a Jewish cafeteria, go to synagogue, go to a Jewish day school, and you might become a target. You are even a target after you are buried. The worst anti Semitism is in France, but it is also terrible in Belgium, and Germany and bad in other countries as well. The more critical the governments and media are of Israeli behavior in a particular country, the more the violence seems to spread — almost as if it were given a license. Were European government policy to become more supportive of Israel, the fear is that the attacks would then be directed against European institutions, rather than Europe's Jews.
5. Role of the Elites: In Europe the elites have a far different role than they do in the United States. The elites of Europe are the coffee shop philosophers — the leftists who romanticize the violence of Che Guevara, Yassar Arafat, and the Sunni killers fighting our forces in Iraq: the revolutionaries fighting Western hegemony, colonialism, militarism, imperialism, etc. In the US we have such people too— they make up the humanities faculties of most colleges and universities, particularly at elite schools. As William F. Buckley once said, he would rather be governed by the first 200 names from the Boston phone directory than any 200 Harvard faculty picked at random. And for the record, Harvard is far from the worst of the lot — ten times as many Harvard faculty signed the anti—divestment petition concerning Israel as the pro divestment petition, and the current Harvard president, Larry Summers, has succeeded in just two years in driving out academic poseur Cornell West, criticizing the academic left for its anti Semitic behavior, and encouraging a return of military recruiting and ROTC to campus.
In America the leftist academics prepare petitions and write their drivel for academic conferences, but they really do not much affect public policy. Yes, there is a soft leftist mindset that wafts out of academia and courses through the media, and has a real influence over the messages that are communicated in our society. This is what Bernard Goldberg in Bias and Ann Coulter in Slander have written about. But it is not the harsh anti—Western nihilistic nonsense that is so prevalent in academia. It is easy to forget that in the 1960s, the Kennedy Administration seemed to take half of Cambridge, Massachusetts with it to Washington. That kind of academic influence on policy, whether in a Democratic or Republican administration, no longer exists.
Europe is very different. The elites are public intellectuals and have a major role in making government policy. This is why the mindless anti—Americanism of the German minister with her Hitler analogy to George Bush can be voiced. It is why major media in Britain and France and Italy ,and to a lesser extent Germany, are full of biting anti—American, and anti—Israel commentary. That 'shitty little country' comment by the French Ambassador to Britain reflects the worldview of the European elites. Israel is the imperialist colonialist power. There is nothing noble about its struggle against terrorism. The Palestinians are the oppressed — the new South Africans fighting the Israeli apartheid.
This is not just a reflection of government policy caused by fear of domestic Muslim terrorism, but a romanticism for the presumed helpless victim, and admiration for the revolutionary gunmen fighting for their freedom. In Europe the elites believe this garbage. The anger against Israel among the elites is very strong. The coverage of the conflict by the leftist European media, the bibles of the elites— the Guardian, Le Monde, the BBC, Reuters, feed this anger with their reporting. And recently, in a clear violation of the most basic tenets of academic freedom, both British and French academics have attempted to eliminate scholarly contact with Israeli academics.
In the US we are a very culturally diverse and politically divided nation. Abortion, gun rights, taxes, government spending, the proper role of religion in the public sphere, are all issues on which the population is sharply divided. But there is also common ground that we can call an acceptance of basic American and democratic principles. It is a fairly conservative common ground— patriotic, respectful of religion (remember the public reaction to the 9th Circuit judges ruling on the 'under God' language in the Pledge of Allegiance), and supportive of free enterprise.
The European elites align with Noam Chomsky's world view. An example is the way the European elites ridicule religion (other than Islam). Because of the role that the elites have in European politics— often moving into and out of government and non—governmental organization roles — their views have a hearing in the circles of government decision—making.
The Greens — a far left movement that started as an environmental movement — are now pro—Palestinian, anti—American, anti—capitalist and anti—war, and growing in strength throughout the Continent. Their inclusion in Germany's current government was a central reason for Gerhard Schroeder's hostility to America in the lead—up to war with Iraq. There is pitifully little common ground between the major American policy consensus and Europe's Greens.
America's Greens (represented by Ralph Nader and Israel—hating film director Michael Moore) have similar views as Europe's Greens, but here, thankfully, the Greens are a 2% phenomenon at best (this year less than a 1% phenomenon). In Europe they are 10% of the voters in many countries, and part of many governing coalitions. They influence all the other parties on the left and make them less sympathetic to America and by extension to Israel.
How bad has it gotten for Israel in Europe?
Public opinion surveys show huge majorities favor the Palestinians over Israel, by 2 to 1 or 3 to 1 in the large countries, and by 10 to 1 in some smaller ones. In the US, surveys show 3 to1 to 4 to 1 support for Israel over the Palestinians. Italy's government is the most sympathetic to Israel, then Britain, then Germany, then France among the largest four. The media is least hostile to Israel in Germany (with greater care taken to not cross the line to anti—Semitism, given the Germans' ignoble history).
The public is also very hostile to Israel in Belgium, Spain, and in Scandinavia — which has no Jews to speak of. Norway took great pride in the Oslo agreement. Foreign Minister Terje Larsen facilitated this agreement. Norway awarded a Nobel Peace Prize to Yassar Arafat. They still think he is deserving, but some questioned Peres's award because of his complicity in the 'massacre' in Jenin, which of course never happened. Larsen is very hard on Israel and his attacks on Sharon have been slanderous. In Jenin he knowingly lied about war crimes. There is a total unwillingness to accept that Oslo was a disaster for Israel. Sweden prides itself on its moral superiority and has condemned Israel in unusually strong language even for Europe. Let us not forget, however, that Sweden was neutral in World War 2. Somehow they could not come around to choosing sides between the Allies and the Nazis.
The International Criminal Court and the war crimes tribunals against Sharon in Belgium were another way for Europeans to annoy America, badger Israel, and try to force a European role in American foreign policy and military decisions. But it also demonstrates the problem of moral equivalence (or in reality, the absence of any grounded morality) which is an endemic problem for Europeans. Sharon is equivalent to Milosevic. Sabra and Shattila are the same as Srebenica. The occupation and suicide bombings are viewed as equivalent. Without occupation, claim the Euro apologists for Palestinian violence, there would be no terror bombings or attacks.
6. Anti—Semitism lives on in Europe: Europeans have a Jewish problem. In fact with the exception of a few decades after World War 2, they always have had a problem with their Jews. But charges of anti—Semitism are hurtful to Europeans. They want to put the past in the trunk and lock it for good. The centuries of discrimination, the pogroms, the ghettos, the Holocaust, are all ancient history, crimes of an older Europe. Anti —Israel attitudes are everywhere in Europe — in many cases official government policy — and are all over the media from the BBC and Reuters, to the tabloid rags. But anti—Semitism is more problematic since it violates the Europeans' notion of human rights, and their more ordered 'higher quality' societies. So the rejection of the charge is immediate and fierce. There is no more guilt about past behavior but defensiveness about current charges of Jew hatred. Even Amnesty International has been forced to condemn suicide bombings as crimes against humanity because of the charge that by ignoring these atrocities, and concentrating instead on Israel's counter measures, it was anti—Semitic. Murder of Jews did not concern them, only what happened to Arabs.
The attacks on the 'neocons' and Paul Wolfowitz (in reality, the Jews and their puppeteer Ariel Sharon) as the primary force behind America's going to war with Iraq, also fit the classical pattern of conspiracy theories about Jewish world power. These theories, anti—Semitic at their core, have been propagated widely in Europe.
7. The decline of Christianity: Here one can see perhaps the biggest difference between Europe and America, and a difference that is very favorable to support for Israel in the US. Jews are now less than 2% of America's population , down from 4% in 1950, and our numbers have declined from six to just over five million. Muslims and Arabs may together be 3 to 4 million, not the 6 to 7 million they claim, but their numbers are rapidly growing.
The decline in church membership in America is in the liberal Protestant churches: the Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians — the groups least sympathetic to Israel. Their members of course behave like most liberal Jews. They read the New York Times, listen to NPR and vote Democratic.
Evangelical Christians and practicing Catholics, on the other hand, are growing in numbers. And especially among evangelical Christians, support for Israel is very strong. This community, which has an above average number of births, is growing as a share of the population. That is good for political support for Israel here.
Some in the Jewish community seem fearful of this support from evangelicals, believing it is based on an "end of days" prophecy, which they do not accept. But if more Jews actually met with evangelicals, they would quickly learn that their support for Israel is broad based, and reflects an understanding that Israel is a strategic ally of America in the war on terror, that Israel works with us in the United Nations, and that Israel shares our Western values and attitudes. Evangelicals are also comfortable with both Biblical support and historical connections between the Jews and the land of Israel. If such support or connections did not exist, what basis would Herzl have had to recreate the Jewish state in Israel, and not say Uganda, as some early Zionist supporters suggested.
In Europe, the number of practicing Christians has fallen very far very fast. In Europe the elites routinely ridicule Christianity ( in fact they ridicule all religions, other than Islam), in the fashion of Bill Maher or Maureen Dowd. Europeans now have the lowest church attendance in the western world. In Britain, of those who attend Anglican church services, more than half are African or Caribbean blacks. There are exceptions of course. Ireland and Poland are countries where many white Europeans still go to church. Current estimates are that 10% of Europe's population are practicing Christians, about double the number of Muslims on the continent. What is left — the vast majority of Europeans — are secular humanists, or anti—religious right wingers, and Israel has no biblical or moral significance for either group.
In the case of the secular humanists, Israel's 'misbehavior' with the Palestinians is viewed as a thorn in the side of good relations with their Muslims. Israel's strongest supporters in Europe, much as in America, are the religious Protestants. But they are few and far between, and they themselves are the subject of the same scorn and hostility from the left , as occurs here. The liberal Christian churches of Europe, the ones which do not believe in God, have been behaving for many years towards Israel like the Presbyterian Church is now behaving in the US.
Does Israel have any hope for better relations with Europe? Europe will react better to an Israel run by someone from the left, and an Israel that shrinks. A Barak or a Peres, in fact most anyone other than Sharon, would make Europe happier. But just as in our recent Presidential election, Europeans, thankfully, do not get to vote. Israelis will pick their leaders, just as we pick our own.
Ariel Sharon had no hope of ever getting a fair hearing in Europe. From the beginning, the Europeans viewed him as a war criminal. If a more moderate Palestinian leadership emerged, and there were substantive peace talks and the appearance of flexibility on the part of Israel, Israel's public image in Europe would improve. There are lots of hypotheticals in this last statement of course. So don't bet the ranch on it happening. I do not have much confidence that we are entering a new period of reconciliation between the Palestinians and Israel.
The current intifada has been a disaster for both peoples, but particularly for the Palestinians. In Israel, in addition to the dead, the injured, and the destruction, there has been the killing of any trust between the two sides, and the disappearance of the once strong Israeli peace camp which made the Palestinian case within Israel.
The Europeans demand that Israel go back to where it was at Camp David or Taba and forget its 1000 plus dead, the terror attacks, the vicious hate rhetoric and delegitimization campaign that the Palestinians and their Arab allies have broadcast relentlessly in all venues around the world. The Israelis know that the Islamic terror groups, as well as the secular terror groups, are still armed to the teeth and remain aggressive in their intentions.
In my view, without disarmament and the arrest of terrorists and an end to incitement against Israel, there will be no peace. That is the reality in this conflict. This conflict is not primarily about settlements or the occupation, as the Europeans charge, though these are important issues. More basically we have two peoples claiming the same land. And the conflict will not end so long as most Palestinians believe their land is not only the West Bank and Gaza, but Israel too.
The American—led war with Iraq was revealing for the divisions that it exposed within Europe, though on Israel the negative sentiment remained close to universal. Britain, Spain (under Aznar), Italy, and a few other European countries provided troops and material support in the war effort. The French, the Germans, the Belgians, the Greeks, and many other Europeans opposed the war for a variety of reasons, including:
1.The instability it might cause among their own Arab populations which would need to be controlled.
2. The potential loss of business investments and opportunities since Europeans willingly filled the gap left by America's boycott of business activity with Iraq.
3. Because the war demonstrated America's military power, and Europe's weakness. Military action meant the UN and diplomacy and multilateralism had not worked. Since these are the holy trinity of European international politics, the resistance to American action was deeply felt and resented.
The Americans have learned that a country that only responds rhetorically and diplomatically to attacks against it, will continue to be attacked. Sometimes you have to take the battle to the enemy, as Israel did after the Passover massacre in Netanya, and the Americans did to al Qaeda and the Taliban after 9/11, and as FDR did by going after Germany first after Pearl Harbor, though we had been attacked by Japan, and not Germany, a piece of history that seems to have been largely forgotten.
The best defense is often a good offense. As in football, keep the other side's offense off the field.
Other than for Tony Blair, this doctrine is foreign to the Europeans. After the train bombings in Madrid in 3/11, the newly elected peace government in Spain quickly removed their forces from Iraq. Appeasement did not work in Europe in 1938, and Spain's pitiful behavior will only encourage the Islamic radicals to intensify their efforts to undermine the soft regimes they see all over the Continent. Thankfully, from my perspective at least, we live in a world where we have an American president who does not believe that passivity in the face of attacks directed against his country is a successful long term strategy. That attitude is the same as Ariel Sharon's and reflects the new reality that many Israelis woke up to with this latest intifada.
And it is that shared attitude by both leaders— Bush and Sharon — that ensures, I think, a strong US—Israel relationship in the years ahead. Certainly, the support of evangelicals, the bipartisan support in Congress (thanks in large part to AIPAC and Jews' political activism), and the different sizesof the Jewish and Muslim communities here versus in Europe, all matter to the equation. But we should never underestimate leaders, and the messages they send. George Bush seems to get it, that in the conflict in which we are now engaged, Israel is on the same page.