EU’s Bias Shines Brightly
The appointment of Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell as high representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy portends difficult times ahead for Israel. Borrell, a 72-year-old career politician, begins his five-year term with a reputation for being pro-Iran, pro-Palestinian, and anti-Israel.
He has dismissed Israeli concerns over Iran and said the Jewish state will have to live with the threat of an Iranian nuclear bomb. “Iran wants to wipe out Israel,” he said. “Nothing new about that. You have to live with it.” Borrell also encouraged Iran to wait out American sanctions in case U.S. President Donald J. Trump loses reelection in 2020.
After his appointment as Spain’s foreign minister in June 2018, Borrell emerged as one of Europe’s most vocal proponents of the so-called two-state solution: a Palestinian state alongside Israel. He has blamed Israel for the lack of progress toward that goal and recently called for the unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.
Under Borrell’s direction, Spain voted in favor of the February 2019 UN Human Rights Council report on the Gaza border that accused Israel of “intentionally” shooting children along the border fence and claimed these incidents were “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the report.
Borrell replaces Federica Mogherini, whose tenure left EU-Israel ties in shambles. During her watch, the EU pursued notoriously pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel policies. In November 2015, for example, the EU decided to label products from Israeli towns in the West Bank, implying those areas do not belong to Israel. Netanyahu responded by suspending the EU’s diplomatic involvement in peace efforts with the Palestinians. Since then, the EU’s efforts in the Middle East have been mostly reactionary, with little proactive impact.
In May 2018, for instance, Mogherini’s efforts to have the EU condemn President Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem was blocked by Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Romania. Frustrated, Borrell lashed out at Trump’s pro-Israel policies, which he said serve only to encourage “the warlike arrogance of Netanyahu.”
In July 2018, the EU condemned Israel’s nation-state law but took no action other than to express continued support for the two-state solution. In April 2019, the EU condemned the U.S. move to recognize the Golan Heights as Israeli territory but again only expressed its support for the two-state solution. In June 2019, in an effort to preserve the Iran nuclear deal, the EU “operationalized” a mechanism to allow European countries to trade with Iran despite U.S. sanctions; but Tehran dismissed the scheme as insufficient for it to stay in the nuclear deal.
Borrell recently noted that although the EU gives the Palestinians 300 million euros of aid each year, Europe has “very little capacity to influence world affairs.” The new president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has tasked Borrell with making the EU more strategic, assertive, and united. “You should seek to strengthen the Union’s capacity to act autonomously and promote its values and interests around the world,” she told him. Borrell can be expected to work tirelessly to reinsert the EU into Middle East peacemaking—efforts likely to produce more tension between the EU and Israel.
Israeli commentator Eldad Beck wrote that, with Borrell’s appointment, Europe was showing its true colors. “There is tremendous symbolism” in it, he said. “From the EU’s perspective, a desire to wipe out Israel is acceptable. . . . Just as the Europeans aren’t really bothered by Iran’s calls for Israel’s destruction, so, too, do they not care whether the Palestinians want to annihilate the Jewish state. They can live with that. We can’t.”