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March 31st, 2015
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Europe’s Emerging Center-Right Tips the Scales Back

Europe’s Emerging Center-Right Tips the Scales Back

Europe might be a riper fruit to pick for Israel than most people think. For all the threats of sanctions and leaked reports recommending punishing Jerusalem for, well, building in Jerusalem, it is far less likely the European Union will achieve a consensus to implement anything. The reason? That emerging consensus is now eroding.

Counterintuitively, it might be thanks to ISIS that Europeans are beginning to see Hamas and even Fatah as irresponsible actors in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to Esther Lopatin of the Inter-Disciplinary Center in Herzilya, there are winds of change blowing through Europe.

"Although I'd have to say that both sides are very critical, we're starting to see the beginning of a change. Criticism against Israel is as homogenous as it used to be."

This is not something automatic, however. Additionally, the changes that Lopatin is seeing moving through Europe are mainly on the right side of the political spectrum. Even as new views develop, Israel will have to ensure they nurture them.

"The left side is still much more critical. If you polled people tomorrow, you'd probably still see a majority of Europeans who see Netanyahu as bad. But five or 10 years from now, people might be less critical of Israeli governments because they might see common cause fighting Islamist terrorism.”

Lopatin sees that events in Europe - attacks in Brussels, Paris, Toulouse and Copenhagen - are having a profound effect on the center-right in European politics. While it might differ country to country, it is still an overarching trend.

The trend is reflective also of attitudes in the United States, where Republicans tend to be much more receptive of the Israeli position than Democrats.

Lopatin did not speak directly about how Europeans might be receiving Netanyahu's public skepticism about the viability of a Palestinian state, but Netanyahu's arguments about that state's vulnerability to an Islamist coup d’état might resonate if given proper attention if indeed ISIS is starting to weigh on the minds of Europeans.

This shift is also seen in Jewish voting patterns across the continent, according to Lopatin.

"It's say the tendency to understand our position is more on the right camp than it is on the left. There are more Jews in Europe voting right these days. It wasn't always like that. In the past the left wing was considered to be the natural political home for Jews, welcoming minorities regardless of religion."

"It isn't like that any longer because it is now the home of certain minorities, particularly European Muslims. Those parties now tend to sympathize more with Muslim positions, taking the Palestinian side against the Israelis."

Over the course of the last few months, the idea of tolerating violence from groups like Hamas has gotten more difficult. In the past, Europeans put Hamas into the light of a resistance group with no other means for resistance. That idea has eroded, maybe as a result of a combination of ISIS-inspired terrorism and the Palestinian Authority's diplomatic push. If Abbas were to try to reunify with Hamas as a result of Netanyahu's recent comments, it could be that Abbas' own actions in the diplomatic arena might inspire a reevaluation of Abbas and his government in the eyes of Europeans.

"People had a tolerance for such acts conducted by Hamas because they thought that was the only way they (the Palestinians) could achieve independence. But they are starting to see Hamas as a real threat, where supporting Hamas might actually be dangerous to them because they are justifying other people who use means of violence. In the discourse there's less and less tolerance violence and terrorism."

For years it might have been argued that Israel has utilized an argument that did not resonate with Westerners, where they asked Americans and Europeans to imagine terrorism in their own backyards.

With ISIS' recent foray into Europe, that strategy might get a better listen.

"They're starting to understand that those people are not really rational actors," says Lopatin. "They're beginning to say things like, 'Maybe the Israelis are not so crazy. We're also afraid of Islamists today. We're afraid of ISIS.' In the past it was more along the lines of 'What's the big deal? Make peace and things will be fine.'"

When asked if it would make more sense to pursue a multi-partisan strategy, which Israel's supporters in the United States seem to be fighting to salvage at the moment, Lopatin thought that certain people could not be convinced of Israel's case.

“Certain people cannot be convinced of Israel’s arguments, especially on the radical left.”

(INN)

 

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