The unusually strong European rebuke of Israels plans to tighten
its grip on land sought for a Palestinian state marks at least a 30-
year low point in relations, say Israeli foreign policy scholars.
While the nature of Europes complaint is not new, the tone reflects
both heightened urgency about salvaging the two-state solution, and
accumulated impatience with a government seen as diplomatically tone
What we now witness is not an eruption of emotions or a political
eruption, it is a result of years of an evolution that has been
taking place in which Israel loses gradually but steadily the
sympathy of public opinion in Europe, says Avi Primor, former
Israeli ambassador to both Germany and the European Union.
While he and others see a potential for a serious deterioration
of relations, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahus government
appears undeterred by Europes response so far to plans to expand
West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements. Despite Europe being
Israels largest trading partner or perhaps because of it Israel is
largely unconcerned about the diplomatic flap inflicting any
We have very strong relations with European countries and Im sure
well overcome this in the near future, says Danny Danon, deputy
speaker of the Knesset and a member of Mr. Netanyahus Likud party. I
think we will have to deal with that [Europes] response, but we will
continue to build in our capital in Jerusalem, and in settlement
blocs in Judea and Samaria, he says, using the biblical names for
the West Bank.
Is Europes criticism registering?
Mr. Danon, who is also a member of the Knessets Foreign Affairs
and Defense Committee, says he was surprised by the diplomatic
backlash from Europe because it showed a double standard after last
weeks successful Palestinian bid to be recognized as a state at the
The message is very clear: if the Palestinians will take
unilateral steps, Israel will do the same, he says. I havent seen
any similar [European] response to recent Palestinian steps.
But a fellow member of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee,
Nachmann Shai, says Israels retaliatory settlement moves are
detrimental to its global standing and reflect an about-face, after
Netanyahu so carefully worked to get international opinion on
Israels side during the eight-day Gaza campaign that ended Nov. 21.
We lost this credit overnight because we didnt know how to react
to the Palestinian request at the UN, says Mr. Shai, who has
represented Israels interests to the world in many different
positions over the course of his career, including as spokesman for
the Israel Defense Forces. The fact that we reacted by challenging
the world community by doing something that we know for sure will
make them angry its like shooting ourselves in the leg, its against
The Foreign Ministry could not be reached for comment.
Some have characterized the dispute as the result of hurt
feelings on both sides. European officials, who have shown more
sympathy to Israels concerns than those of their own constituents
most recently sticking their necks out to support Israels recent
military operation in Gaza cant help but feel that Israel has
As much as we try to put a sophisticated analytical veneer on all
this . …