Why is Israel viewed so differently in Europe than in the United States? To argue as the title of this article does, that Europe has abandoned Israel, is to suggest that it was once in its corner. And in fact, this is true.
Prior to the Six Day War in 1967, it was France which was Israel's primary military supplier, not the United States. In the War of Independence in 1948-49, it was arms smuggled from Czechoslovakia that enabled the Zionists to fight on. Most European nations, including some Soviet satellites, supported the partition resolution in the General Assembly in November 1947. European nations supported Israel at the UN through the late 1960s and in some cases well beyond then.
Clearly, some of this support in the post World War 2 period-was a reflection of European guilt over the murder of six million Jews in their midst from 1939 to 1945. As Raul Hilberg has written, most Europeans and most European nations fell into one of two categories during the Holocaust: perpetrators, or bystanders. Few nations distinguished themselves (Denmark, Bulgaria, and maybe Italy, were better than average).
Today 40 years later, that residue of sympathy for the plucky underdog nation of Israel has disappeared.
When I refer to Europe I mean for the most part the EU (which includes all of western Europe except Norway Switzerland, and Iceland and an increasing number of eastern European countries: Romania and Bulgaria the most recently admitted, joining Slovenia, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia).
As an alumnus 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.
Size versus military might
- Europe is a growing economic powerhouse due to creation of a collective economy.
- 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 George W. Bush as President than before, given his inclination to defend and promote what he believes are American interests despite substantial international resistance.
Let us look at some numbers: The EU now has 27 countries with a GDP over $13 trillion. The EU countries have almost 500 million people. The United States with 300 million people, also has a GDP of about $13 trillion, so obviously per capita GDP is much higher in the US than in Europe (60% higher per capita in fact). Europeans claim that the greater income disparity among Americans means the real gap in per capita income is narrower between most citizens of the US and Europe.
Add Turkey and the non-EU Eastern European nations, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro (reuniting Yugoslavia within the EU!), and the EU could soon be well over 500 million people. Russia has another 150 million people, Ukraine 40 million, though these countries are not currently considered potential members.
But there is little or no population growth within Europe, and with the exception of some of the Eastern European economies, Ireland and Scandinavia, relatively slow economic growth overall. In the US, the 1950 population of 150 million has doubled 55 years later. In the US, we have replacement population growth from the birth rate, plus immigration, mostly from Mexico and East Asia. Europe's population, which grew only 20% the past 55 years, is now stagnant, and headed downward sharply, given today's low birth rates.
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 solve 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 has 27 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. One explanation for this somewhat naïve 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, America, and Israel. Bruce Bawer, who left America for what he thought was a better place in Western Europe, has documented the spiritual emptiness of this new multicultural ideology in his recent book While Europe Slept.
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 close to 10% unemployment is a near constant level for some countries 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 population. 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. Mark Steyn in his new book America Alone, argues that demography is destiny. He concludes, a bit hyperbolically, that Europeans are in the throes of a death spiral.
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, towards the elderly, a rapidly growing bloc?
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, Macedonia 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.
Rising Muslim population
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 Mälmo, 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 in March 2004, and in Britain in July 2005 and the murder of Theo Van Gogh in the Netherlands, and the cartoon riots created by the publication of a few unflattering drawings of Muhammed in an obscure Danish newspaper. 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. A few years back, I met with a French consul general 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), and 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. While Texas may be half Hispanic by 2025, I don't think that this demographic change will necessarily affect Texas for the worse, and Texas will still be America. Immigrants to America tend to become more Americanized over time. But will France still be French if it is half Muslim? David Pryce Jones in an article in Commentary stated 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 PA with billions in contributions, though the money is continually diverted for terrorism (otherwise known as security forces) and to support the lifestyles of the PA's thugocracy. It also explains Europe's near 100% support for Israel-bashing efforts in the UN and international bodies. With the Hamas election victory, many in Europe agreed to an initial aid cutoff, but soon wanted aid restored, because they believed it was needed for humanitarian purposes. 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.
Hostility to Israel as the product
So why are the Europeans so hostile to Israel, and so sympathetic to the Palestinians?
There are a number of factors that explain European behavior towards Israel. I have identified seven of them:
- Europe's dependence on Middle East oil
- Europe's rivalry with the US
- The growing number of Muslims and their militancy
- The small number of Jews, and their passivity
- The role of elites in Europe's politics
- Europe's long term disease of anti-Semitism, and
- The decline of Christianity in Europe.
The US obtains almost 40% 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.
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 the US as well. Now the European argument is that only Europe can work with the PA given America's tilt towards Israel. 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, and hence the wisdom of going to war over WMDs. 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, but reported in this country almost entirely on just one channel (FNC), and in one newspaper - the Wall Street Journal.
Fear of the Muslim population
Europe is afraid of its Muslims. There is fear that if Europe behaves towards Israel 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 an appeasement government 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 severely limiting 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 African American 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.
But it is also the case that most Europeans are happy to have the new immigrants live among themselves and not integrate in their societies. Do native Germans regard the Turks living among them as Germans? Do the Dutch view South Moluccans as they do their Dutch neighbors? In America, if an immigrant works hard and earns a living, nobody really cares about his or her ethnicity. We are after all a nation of immigrants and their descendants.
Islam is at heart both a religion, and a political system. There is no separation of church and state in Islam. Radical Islamists intend to dominate and overwhelm Europe. Melanie Phillips has written about how this disturbing trend is playing out in Britain in her recent book Londonistan.
There is also little intermarriage by immigrants in Europe. In the US 10 % of blacks marry whites, 5% of Asians marry non-Asians, and as we know, about half of Jews marry non-Jews.
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?
But 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 countries that were part of the former Soviet Union), 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, Hungary 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.
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: leftists who romanticize the violence of Che Guevara, Yassar Arafat, and the Sunni killers fighting our forces in Iraq. They fancy themselves 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.
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 mind set that wafts out of academia and courses through the media that has a real influence over the messages that are communicated in our society. This is what Bernard Goldberg has written about in his book Bias. 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. Jimmy Carter has attempted to popularize this view in America with a vindictive assault on Israel in his latest book: Palestine: Peace not Apartheid.
In Europe, these views are 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. Even something as seemingly innocent as an annual calendar, distributed by Reuters, contains but one provocative photo - a Palestinian "militant" marching to protest the "killing" of Palestinians by Israel (obviously no context required). 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). An Oxford scientist, Richard Dawkins, has written The God Delusion claiming that teaching religion to children is a form of child abuse. 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. 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 only a 1%- 2% phenomenon. In Europe they are ten percent 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 up through the end of 2003 showed huge majorities favoring 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 showed 3 to 1 to 4 to 1 support for Israel over the Palestinians in the same period. The number of Europeans supporting the Palestinians dropped after the electoral victory by Hamas, but support for Israel did not increase. In a survey last year, Europeans named Israel the most dangerous country in the world, with the US and Iran tied for second! 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), and most hostile in Britain, France, and Spain.
The public is also very hostile to Israel in Belgium, 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 (and Jimmy Carter). No one subsequently questioned whether Arafat was still deserving, but some questioned Shimon Peres' 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 Ariel Sharon were 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 and grew wealthy selling war materiel to Hitler. 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, and the International Court of Justice's advisory ruling on the security barrier in the West Bank, were other ways 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 was viewed as equivalent to Milosevic. Sabra and Shattila were the same as Srebenica. The occupation and suicide bombings are viewed as equivalent. Without occupation, claim the European apologists for Palestinian violence, there would be no terror bombings or attacks.
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 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, since murder of Jews did not concern them, only what happened to Arabs.
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, according to one population survey, and held steady at six million according to a more recent survey. Muslims and Arabs may together be 3 to 4 million, certainly 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, Lutherans, 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, vote Democratic, and attend Michael Moore movies.
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.
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 alleged 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 on the continent. 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 have been behaving for many years towards Israel, just as the Presbyterian Church USA has been behaving in the US, with its calls for divestment.
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. The withdrawal from Lebanon was applauded, as was the disengagement from Gaza. A Barak or a Peres, or an Olmert, in fact most anyone other than a Sharon or a Netanyahu, makes Europe happier. But Europeans, thankfully, do not get to vote in Israel's elections, or ours. 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 could improve. There are lots of hypotheticals in this last statement of course, and a risk to Israel's security from trying to do too much to make the Europeans happier with Israel. 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 recent intifada was a disaster for both peoples, but particularly for the Palestinians. In Israel, in addition to the dead and the injuredand the destruction, the vicious terror war killed any sense of trust that had developed between the two sides, and gravely weakened what I call the illusionists - the members of the Israeli peace camp who made the Palestinians' case within Israel. The electoral victory of Hamas, the war with Hezb'allah, and the strident and repeated eliminationist threats coming from a near nuclear Iran, have hopefully wiped away most of the vestiges of defeatism - the belief that more Israeli concessions will bring peace.
The Europeans demand that if negotiations are to begin again between Israel and the Palestinians, that Israel go back to where it left off at Camp David or Taba in early 2001 and forget its 1500 dead, the terror attacks, the vicious hate rhetoric and de-legitimization campaign that the Palestinians and their Arab allies have broadcast relentlessly in venues all 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 Southern Lebanon, the UNIFIL and Lebanese army forces merely looked on as Hezb'allah rearmed after the war. Israel's conflict with Hezb'allah and the Palestinians has never been primarily about settlements or the occupation, as the Europeans charge, though these are issues that reasonable parties could negotiate. More basically we have two peoples claiming the same land. And the conflict will not end so long as most Palestinians and their allies believe that Palestinian 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 revealed within Europe, though on Israel the negative sentiment remained close to universal. Britain, Spain (under Aznar), Italy, and a few Eastern European countries provided troops and material support in the war effort. The French, Germans, Belgians, Greeks, and many other Europeans opposed the war for a variety of reasons. Certainly, there were legitimate strategic arguments that could be developed to explain why some might have been opposed to the war, just as in America. But in Europe, there were additional issues:
- The instability it might cause among their own Muslim populations which would need to be controlled.
- The potential loss of business investments and opportunities since Europeans willingly filled the gap left by America's boycott of business activity with Iraq.
- 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 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 Tony Blair, this doctrine is foreign to the Europeans. After the train bombings in Madrid in 2004, 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. Now we have James Baker's Iraq Study Group Report, as good a European style document as we ever could hope to produce in this country . The ISG report maintains that the way to wind down our Iraq involvement is to plead for mercy from Syria and Iran (this is what is otherwise known in diplomatic circles as engagement), and to pressure Israel for concessions to the Palestinians. Is there anyone who seriously believes that anything Israel might offer to the Palestinians will impact how the rival religious insurgencies and militias behave in Iraq? And why would Syria and Iran, who have worked to destabilize Iraq, so that the Americans would pack up and leave, and allow them to share the spoils, care to solve the problems they helped create?
To his credit, Bush rejected the ISG recommendations, while paying them the required lip service. The US, at least under this president, remains hard headed about the enemies we face, regardless of the wisdom of the Iraq war. Israel needs the same kind of leadership.
In Europe, the fear of military conflict is so strong, that the illusionists reign supreme. Think of how pathetic was the European response to the savagery in the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. In this country, the ties with Israel remain strong. Certainly, the support of evangelicals, the bipartisan support in Congress (thanks in large part to AIPAC and Jews' political activism), and the different sizes of the Jewish and Muslim communities here versus in Europe, all matter to the equation. But we should never under-estimate leaders, and the messages they send. George Bush seems to understand, that in the conflict with radical Islam in which we are now engaged, Israel is on the same page as we are.
[A version of this article was delivered as a talk at Temple B'Nai Israel, Aurora, Jan. 7, 2007.]
Richard Baehr is the chief political correspondent of American Thinker.