Thursday, January 27, 2005

 

Israel in the EU? Why not?

The Head Heeb foresees the future - and it's good (God willing).
Israel Europeanization watch

The Gaza withdrawal plan and the fragile improvement in Israeli-Palestinian relations are apparently bearing some diplomatic fruit, with incoming EU ambassador Ramiro Cibrian-Uzal making one of the strongest statements in recent record in favor of European cooperation with Israel and recognition of Israeli security concerns. Cibrian-Uzal in fact spoke of Israeli EU membership as a long-term goal, a possibility that has occasionally been floated by Israeli diplomats but never by Europeans in potential policy-making positions. In the meantime, he pledged that the increasing integration of Israel into European institutions would continue:
Cibrian-Uzal also said that an agreement signed last month to upgrade EU-Israeli relations through the European Neighborhood Policy will enable "unprecedented cooperation." In the context of this deal, he said, the EU has offered Israel "more or less" the same level of cooperation it has with Switzerland."

The EU currently has many agreements with Switzerland that it does not have with Israel, and it is Israel's decision whether it wishes to take the EU up on this offer, he said. But if Israeli cooperation with the EU does reach the Swiss level, the question of Israel's joining the union would not be out of place, he added.
In part, Cibrian-Uzal's statements, and other recent European overtures, are a natural outgrowth of the increasing interdependence between Israel and the EU. The expansion of the EU into eastern Europe has resulted in more than a million Israelis acquiring European citizenship, and intermarriage between Jewish sub-populations in Israel may eventually entitle most of the country to European passports. European industries benefit considerably from Israeli research and development, and the EU surpassed the United States this year to become Israel's largest trading partner.

At the same time, there's probably more to the Israel-EU thaw than increasing integration. Now that a peace process is once again returning to the table, the EU wants to be a player, and, just as the United States is belatedly realizing that it needs Palestinian trust to make a real difference, Europe is realizing that it needs Israeli trust. Given time and a certain amount of luck, this could turn into a self-fulfilling cycle, with European influence nudging Israel toward peacemaking while the progress of peace makes a closer Israeli-European relationship more politically possible. As someone who believes that Israel's long-term destiny lies with Europe more than with the United States, I can only regard this as positive.
I'm not sure what he means by "Israel's long-term destiny lies with Europe more than with the United States," but I will say that I think it's best that Israel make friends with countries that are not currently dominated by right-wing evangelical Christians who are pro-Israel primarily if not only because they believe that Jesus won't come again until all the Jews are living in Israel - at which point, some of them will convert to Christianity and the rest will die. As a Jew, I don't think I need such friends, and I'd be very happy for Israel to be solidly entrenched in thoroughly secular Europe.

As for Israeli membership in the EU, that is extremely unlikely to happen until there is a Palestinian state. At that time, they might offer both countries membership, although that is unlikely, as they would probably worry about the security implications of permitting Palestinians to migrate freely to European countries. They would be more likely to offer a whole raft of trade and other agreements to benefit both countries.

In any case, peace between Israel and Palestine - true peace - is a Good Thing. Anything the EU can do to bring it about is a Good Thing. Let's hope - please, God - that it happens.
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