A European Union think tank last week recommended that the EU restrict its dealings with Israeli banks in order to differentiate Europe’s relations with Israel from that of the settlements. While the Israeli foreign ministry played down the recommendation and the EU quickly clarified that it had “no intention of imposing restrictions on Israeli banks that do business in the settlements,” the announcement caused panic in Israel’s stock market and sent stocks of Israeli banks tumbling.
That’s how seriously Israel’s financial and economic sectors are taking growing European frustration over lack of progress toward a two-state solution and disapproval of the continued expansion of Israeli settlements. The stock market recovered, but the hypocritical game that the EU is playing goes on. And, frankly, it’s offensive.
Europe’s support of Israel is decidedly mixed. At the Knesset last week, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi declared: “Italy will always stand for cooperation and never for boycotts, which are stupid and futile.” Yet, the EU favors a plan to label goods produced in the territories as a way to draw an economic Green Line between Israel and the West Bank.
At the same time, trade goes on between Europe and Iran, Egypt and Turkey — all despite dismal human rights records in those countries, and Turkey’s blatantly illegal occupation of Northern Cyprus since 1974, for which there is no movement towards resolution. Indeed, the ink was hardly dry on the nuclear agreement with Iran when Germany sent an economic delegation to the terror-supporting Islamic republic, plainly in search of new business opportunities. Similarly, in Asia, there are no sanctions on Chinese goods, despite that country’s treatment of its political prisoners and its physical and cultural suppression of the Tibetans and Uighurs. And while the bloodletting goes on in Syria, Europe seems to worry more about banking, loans and mortgages in Israeli settlements.
There are plenty of players in the ongoing drama of the Middle East on which the EU could vent its frustration. But it chooses not to do so. Instead, the EU picks on Israel. Why? Is the resurgence of anti-Semitism across much of Europe a related phenomenon?
We wish we had a plausible answer, but it cannot be denied that Europe insists on applying a double standard in its dealings with the Jewish state. Everyone knows that Israel is not the only player in the ongoing frustration of the Israel-Palestinian dynamic. Yet, instead of Europe trying to bring the two sides closer together, the continent’s policymakers and analysts choose to focus on perceived Israeli intransigence and turn a blind eye to Palestinian obstinacy.
With “partners” like this is it any wonder that the search for peace seems to be going nowhere?