Israel and Europe: Why Economic and Strategic Cooperation Have Never Been Better

(Foreign Affairs) Toby Greene and Jonathan Rynhold - The economic, security, and identity crisis in Europe is creating new incentives for cooperation with Israel. Israel's economic and security ties with European states are strong. Meanwhile, a heightened fear of Islamist extremism strengthens the argument of those European leaders who believe they share common enemies with Israel because they share common values. Imports from Israel to the EU hovered steady between 2011 and 2016 at around $14.8 billion - a historic high - and last year, European governments bought record levels of defense equipment from Israel. Israel's reputation as the "start-up nation" is much admired on the Continent, as are its energetic academic and creative exports. More important for EU members' trade balances, Israel is an increasingly important market, with imports from the EU growing from 14 billion euros in 2006 to more than 21 billion in 2016. Even in countries where there has been a decline in affection for Israel, this sentiment has not been accompanied by a broad embrace of the Palestinian cause. For many political leaders and much of the neutral public, the Palestinian national movement is associated with chaos, corruption, and violent extremism, underlined by the consequences of Israel's pullout from Gaza, which led to Hamas rule and thousands of rockets fired at Israeli civilians. Terror attacks in European cites, searing images of Islamic State butchery, and waves of Syrian refugees pouring into Europe have made it harder to sustain the idea that Israel is the source of Middle East instability. European states especially value Israeli intelligence on the threats posed by Sunni jihadist groups. Moreover, when jihadists target European cities, it bolsters the Israeli narrative that frames Palestinian violence as driven by ideological extremism. Dr. Toby Greene is an Israel Institute post-doctoral fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Prof. Jonathan Rynhold is director of the Argov Center for the Study of Israel and the Jewish People at Bar-Ilan University.

2017-07-14 00:00:00

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