By MANFRED GERSTENFELD, JPOST—
It will remain unclear for quite some time what the main consequences of Brexit will be for Europe, Great Britain and the world at large. The changes will include political, economic and social issues. One example: various parties in a number of European Union member states are enhancing their efforts to establish additional exit referenda.
The main immediate impact of the uncertainty has been on financial markets. Reestablishing stability there will take time.
It is unlikely that the many developments resulting from Brexit will have no consequences for Israel. Such outcomes will probably occur predominantly in the medium and long term. Thus one should ask: what should Israel do? The first answer is that the Israeli government should not comment rapidly on what is going on these days. Nothing is to be gained by that.
The confused European situation may have many impacts on Israel about which it cannot do much. Some developments will no doubt provide Israel with opportunities, while others will embody threats. Therefore, the government should set up an interdisciplinary monitoring committee which will familiarize itself with all major aspects resulting from Brexit. If this is not done, Israel will only suffer from the threats without benefiting from the opportunities.
In the past years Israel has been damaged by the EU’s postcolonial imperialism directed toward it. This had a number of anti-Semitic aspects due to its policy of double standards.
One only has to compare the EU’s frequency of censure of Israel’s building in the settlements with that of the much lesser condemnations of the many extreme crimes in parts of the Muslim world. The same is true for the frequent looking away from the huge criminality which permeates Palestinian society, where the largest party is Hamas, which according to its charter desires genocide of the Jews.
The EU’s anti-Semitic double standards are most visible concerning the required labeling of goods from the West Bank and the Golan Heights, without such measures being applied against many other nations, such as Turkey, which occupies Northern Cyprus. These double standards are anti-Semitic according to the recently adopted working definition of anti-Semitism by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) – a body whose purpose is to promote Holocaust education, remembrance and research. For this definition to be adopted the agreement of all 31 member states was required. Twenty-four of these are members of the European Union.
Israel’s major political message to the EU can be described as: “You have failed in keeping your own organization together. This is the result of a long series of major blunders. It is now many years since you stopped understanding your own reality. We have known for a long time that your meddling in Palestinian-Israeli affairs primarily causes damage. Thus, sort out your own internal mess, and abstain from pestering us.” The Foreign Ministry can formulate this message in more diplomatic terms. In view of the many upcoming confrontations within the EU, there will be frequent opportunities to convey this message publicly.
Originally the EU had very worthwhile goals and took important steps. It and its predecessors have prevented European wars after the continent had suffered so much from these for centuries. Also, the establishment of a customs union has made countries more competitive and boosted their economies. However, in recent decades one major blunder followed another. How irresponsible it was to create free travel in the Schengen Area of 26 countries without adequately protecting its outer borders. How absurd it was to create a single currency without the existence of common economic and fiscal policies. Letting Greece adopt the euro and afterward mistreating its population for years was another EU misstep.
Refugee policy was yet another major failure.
Last week President Reuven Rivlin met in Brussels with Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council. This institution comprises mainly heads of state of EU member countries. Tusk told Rivlin that a lasting peace in the Middle East is a top priority for the EU.
It is now evident that keeping itself together, after the UK’s decision to leave, is the priority for the EU.
The author is emeritus chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, and is the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism, and the International Leadership Award of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.