Europe vs. U.S. in the Middle East

Tom Segev in in an commentary in Haaretz that challenges the conventional wisdom that Israel's interests are served by "serving" the U.S. interests in the Middle East and suggests that Israel would have been better off by following the European lead in the region:
If Europe had some say in the region, Israel may have started negotiations with Hezbollah on the release of the soldiers it abducted - and hopefully, it still will do so - instead of getting mixed up in war. For some years now, more Middle East-related wisdom emanates from Europe than from the United States. It wasn't Europe but the United States that invented the diplomatic fable called the road map; it wasn't Europe but the United States that encouraged unilateral disengagement and is allowing Israel to continue oppressing the population in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The United States is not engaged with Syria; Europe is. Syria is relevant not only for settling the situation in Lebanon, but also in managing relations with the Palestinians. This is the real problem. Because, even if the United States conquers Tehran, we will still have to live with the Palestinians. In Europe, they already understand this.(read the rest)

Those who are familiar with my writings know that I have been making similar arguments for the last ten years or so. I think that the Europeans are going to adopt a more activist role in the region now that the U.S. position is eroding. I do hope that some Israeli leaders will promote a more creative strategy that will embrace this EU role.


Anonymous said…
Sometimes it seems it would be better for Israel it was more tied to the EU, but the politics are not right for that yet.

In your CATO panel, you pointed out how odd it was for the US to subsidize mideast oil for the EU - so the EU could save money for welfare programs , etc.

But you have take into acount the now vested interest US bipartisan Davos set - and how that developed out of ww 2 and the whole thinktank/oil/mil economy that developed around it (kind of like the economies that develop around superfluous military bases - that are used to keep the bases open)

Then add in the split with France that Israel had after the '67 war.
I think it's hard to pin down why things are they way they are -

Years from now - Israel will have a good relationship with some of its enemies and people will look back at now and ask, "why was this so difficult?"

I think Israel benefits from a strong US, but by being seen as too close to US policy, it can backfire if the US is seen as an automatic on Israel's side all the time.

But there are so many ironies about US/Israel relations and US dometic politics.

The US public is far more reliably pro Israel than either the 'realist'- or the more hardened Israeli alligned rivals think. So the realists mistake US public support for lobbying and/or propaganda, while the lobbyists go overboard trying to make their case when a far more laid back approach would be just as effective -maybe more effective.

But right now tension is too high for reappraisal re Europe - feeling against Israel is very high in Europe, but much of that feeling is very complicated with mixed emotioms -- not solid.
Leon Hadar said…
Good points. In fact, the early support for Israel in 1948 came from the Soviet Union (which was the first to recognize Israel) and the Soviet bloc (the Czechs dispatched an "international brigade." You mentioned the relationship with France (which helped Israel develop its nuclear military program). The "alliance" with the U.S. started after 1967 based on interests and values. If you read my book, Sandstorm, I devote two chapters to the topic of Europe in the Middle East and suggest that Israel join the EU at some point as associate member.
Anonymous said…
Did you ever read the memoirs of people like Jimmy Byrnes or James Forrestal?

By chance, just started flipping thru them in a used bookstore and it's amazing how similar the debates were in 1946-48 about the mid-east. Even the real Brewster Jennings makes an appearance (the guy Plame's 'company' was named after)

Not the particulars - but the tone of the debate and the way the factions and the various political alliances developed.

It's pretty funny why the debate is so sharp in the US, because there really is not as wide a gulf between the parties as people think.

It's sometimes annoying to debate the topic because everyone is so insecure about the strength of their position politically - so everyone is defensive - even when there is nothing to be defensive about.

Ultimately - Israel's future lies with developing their economy and figuring out a way to agree to disagree with their neighbors, while trying to create countervailing forces and mutual economic ties that will render conflict less logical - because conflict will be more risky every few years as technology becomes cheaper and harder to restrict.
Anonymous said…
Just as it would be better for Israel to be closer to the EU, it would also be better if Bush had focused on Mexico and Central America.

As a libertarian, you are no big fan of government spending - but it seems if we just took that 300 Billion to One or Two Trillion that were spending in Iraq and devoted that money to scholarships, business grants, and pan-American development, it would have been a better investment - even if half of it was wasted.

Bush could have used his conservative base creds to do much more to convince the base to learn to love our Latin neighbors.

Integration is going to happen - no matter what. Making it work should be the debate.

There's a lot of oil down south - lots. If the base is worried about maintaining western culture - then they should realize that have much more in commone with our neighbors than Europe has with it's neighbors.

Israel should look forward to the day twenty years from now when they will be able to make smug lectures to Europeans about tolerating the Muslim majority in a number of European capitals.

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