More cooperation with the world’s smallest power

By Carsten Ovens
Carsten Ovens is Executive Director of ELNET Germany.

The war in Ukraine, the changing world order, states striving for supraregional power such as Iran, and other global challenges make it clear that Europe needs strategic partners and political allies. In this context, European policy looks to Israel for good reasons.

The small nation in the eastern Mediterranean is celebrating the 75th anniversary of its founding these days. The “Land of Promise” has undergone extraordinary development over time. From day one, the Jewish state has faced permanent attacks from outside as well as challenges from within. Over the course of 75 years, a strong and defensible democracy was formed, which today is even referred to as the world’s smallest – certainly geographically speaking – power.

381 deputies from 17 parliaments

When European politicians are asked about Israel, there is now a high interest in close cooperation. While a quarter of European parliamentarians believe their countries’ bilateral relations with Israel have already improved over the past five years, 77 percent are in favor of further expanding cooperation. The focus is on science, business, security, and defense.

The perspectives revealed were collected as part of the European Leadership Network’s (ELNET) Israel Survey, which asks parliamentarians across Europe about their countries’ relations with Israel and their own state’s Middle East policy. 381 members of 17 European Parliament participated in the survey between February and March 2023.

Security and defense are even the top priorities for parliamentarians in France, Greece, Sweden and the United Kingdom. And in Germany, too, the subject area has long since entered the public debate and is one of the central issues in bilateral relations for the population.

Whereas German submarines and corvettes were the main contributors to Israel’s security in the past, Israeli drones and the Arrow 3 missile defense system developed there are now also expected to strengthen our defense capabilities and protect Europe in the future.

Defense policy a top priority

The increasing importance of security interests is probably also marked by the use of Iranian drones during the Russian war against Ukraine. Iran, with its pursuit of nuclear weapons, is increasingly perceived as more than just a threat to the Middle East. While two-thirds of European parliamentarians are in favor of greater engagement in the region, 70 percent argue for closer coordination with Israel when it comes to Iran.

One strategic response to the geopolitical changes is the Abraham Accords. Since the fall of 2020, the agreements between the Jewish and several Arab states have helped strengthen relations in the region and provide stabilization. After initial reluctance, the EU has now welcomed these agreements. In doing so, Brussels emphasizes they can play an important role in peace and security in the Middle East. Consequently, defense policy is also the top priority for European parliamentarians in the context of the Abraham Accords.

As we mark the special anniversary of the founding of the Jewish state these days, we remember the courageous pioneers who laid the foundation of their nation. Their ideas endure to this day, uniting Europe and Israel based on democratic values and common interests. The highlighted positions of the European parliamentarians make this clear and are at the same time a call to action for European politics.

Carsten Ovens is the Executive Director of the European Leadership Network (ELNET) in Germany. ELNET operates as a think tank and network in the context of European-Israeli relations. Founded in 2007, the organization works independently and across party lines, and today has offices in Berlin, Brussels, London, Paris, Tel Aviv and Warsaw. Its content focuses on foreign and security policy, innovation and engagement against anti-Semitism.


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