As part of his political tour of Europe, on Monday (December 11, 2017), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, addressed the European Union’s foreign ministers in Brussels, Belgium. Netanyahu also serves as Israel’s Foreign Minister. At the center of Netanyahu’s address was a call to the foreign ministers to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Last week’s historic announcement by U.S. President Donald Trump, in which he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, bolstered Netanyahu to call on the Europeans to do the same. In addition to Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, he also set in motion the physical move of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The visit to the EU headquarters was the first for an Israeli prime minister in 22 years.
Netanyahu articulated Jerusalem’s importance to the Jewish people and to Israelis. He said “I believe that all, or most, of the European countries will move their embassies to Jerusalem, recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and engage robustly with us for security, prosperity and peace.” Following his meeting with the EU foreign ministers, Netanyahu issued a statement saying that “Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital doesn’t obviate peace, it makes peace possible, because recognizing reality is the substance of peace, it’s the foundation of peace.”
Netanyahu, in addressing the EU foreign ministers, reminded them that Israel is in the frontline of the war against Islamist terrorism. He thanked Federica Mogherini, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and the government of Lithuania for inviting him, and said, “Europe and Israel are important partners in three main areas: in the area of security, in the area of prosperity, in the area of peace. In security, Israeli intelligence has prevented dozens of terrorist attacks, many of them on European soil, and I think countless lives have been saved as a result of this cooperation that is well known to the security services of many European governments.
We’ll continue to do so as part of our common battle against terrorism. Equally, I think that the greatest problem facing Europe is the flow of people who are escaping the battle-torn areas in the Middle East, and the Middle East is under threat, both of ISIS, militant Islam of the Sunni variety, and militant Islam of the Shiite variety, led by Iran. Israel is the strongest power in the Middle East that is preventing the spread of militant Islam, not only preventing ISIS attacks in Europe, but also preventing the collapse of many parts of the Middle East adjacent to Israel that would otherwise be taken over by these militant Islamists, driving many, many, many millions into Europe. So, obviously we do so to protect ourselves, but in so doing, I believe that Israel serves a very important security function for the people of Europe in ways that are not always understood, but increasingly are appreciated by the relevant governments.”
During his visit to Israel, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel insisted upon a provocative meeting with the anti-IDF group “Breaking the Silence.” It resulted in the scheduled meeting between Netanyahu and the foreign minister to be canceled. FM Gabriel absented himself again from the foreign ministers meeting with Netanyahu (in Brussels). His office announced that “he was sick.” The foreign ministers of Denmark and Luxembourg were likewise absent from the meeting. Also missing were British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, who was visiting Iran, and the newly elected Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who’s trying to form a coalition government, and served hitherto as Austria’s foreign minister.
Netanyahu, who inaugurated the notion of the “pivot toward Asia” as the new direction in Israel’s foreign policy, has had limited expectations from the Europeans who continue to pander to the Muslim world and the Palestinian-Arabs. Still, he pointed out that to the foreign ministers that “Israel has extended its hand in peace to our Palestinian neighbors for 100 years, well before there was a State of Israel and after it was established. And for 50 years, before there was a single settlement or a single issue of territory, we were being attacked constantly.
We were attacked not because of this or that piece of territory, but of the idea of any territory, that there would be a Jewish state, a nation-state for the Jewish people in any boundary was rejected by our neighbors. This is what led to the conflict, and this is what continues the conflict. You see that in the continuous denial, unfortunately, by the Palestinians, of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, and the denial of our history.
For 3,000 years, Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people, from the time… established by King David, well documented in the history of the Bible and the aftermath, when Jews in the ghettos of Europe whispered, “Next year in Jerusalem, next year in Jerusalem.” We never lost that connection. Yet that connection is denied in UN forums, in UNESCO, in laughable decisions that seek to deny history and seek to deny historical truth. Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for the last 70 years. I think what President Trump has done is put facts squarely on the table. Peace is based on reality. Peace is based on recognizing reality, and I think the fact that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital is clearly evident to all of you who visit Israel, see where the seat of our parliament, our Knesset is, the seat of our government, my office, the President’s office, the Supreme Court. Jerusalem is Israel’s capital…”
Netanyahu got a taste of the European appeasement mode in his meeting with French President Emanuel Macron on Sunday, prior to the Brussels meeting. According to the Guardian, Macron told Netanyahu that “Trump’s statement on Jerusalem is a threat to peace and we are against it.” He moreover suggested, “Israeli freeze on settlement building would be an important gesture, showing Israel was committed to peace.”
Netanyahu kept his cool with Macron, aware of the Europeans hypocrisy. Upon his leaving Israel on Saturday he declared: “While I respect Europe, I am not prepared to accept a double standard from it. I hear voices from there condemning President Trump’s historic statement, but I have not heard condemnations of the rockets fired at Israel or the terrible incitement against it. I am not prepared to accept hypocrisy.”
French President Macron and his fellow West European EU leaders do not want peace more than the Israelis do. A prosperous Israel needs and wants peace above all. It is therefore time to ask the Europeans to put the onus on the Palestinians, and address their rejectionist behavior. Similarly, the EU should probe Palestinian Authority (PA) incitement, and its educational system. The PA is teaching its students to reject Israel’s right to exist, and hatred toward Israel and Jews. And, it is aided huge outlays of money by EU to the PA. If the EU wants to be a peacemaker, it is time to put aside their latent anti-Semitism, and pressure the Palestinians to wake up to the reality of Israel.
President Trump has exposed European hypocrisy in dealing with the status of Jerusalem, and Netanyahu’s visit to Europe albeit necessary economically and politically, simply reaffirms the truth that the EU is at best a “fair weather friend of Israel.”