Feb. 19, 2019
- How Israel Sees Eastern Europe – Zev Chafets
Many Europeans wonder how Israel can make common cause with the nationalist leaders of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia – the Visegrad nations. Given Israel’s precarious history, it is a highly pragmatic country.
Looking the other way has been the practice of every prime minister. Golda Meir formed a partnership with Richard Nixon, despite his well-known distrust of Jews. Menachem Begin dealt with UN General Secretary Kurt Waldheim, a former Nazi officer, and French President Francois Mitterrand, who had been an official in the Vichy collaborationist government in World War II France.
In recent times, Israel has found itself increasingly challenged by the diplomacy of the EU. The Visegrad nations do not share EU concerns about Israeli policy, however. Netanyahu’s embrace of the Visegrad also reflects growing frustration with their Western EU partners. European anti-Semitism is at a level not seen since World War II. Chancellor Merkel’s open-door policy was an act of humanitarian charity. But she and her colleagues failed to consider the possible consequences of bringing in a wave of newcomers from societies where anti-Semitism is the norm.
Many Europeans are reluctant to make a causal connection between the rise of anti-Semitism and the mass Muslim immigration. But all 14 hate-crime related murders of Jews in Western Europe since 2012 were carried out by Muslims. It is true that there is still plenty of anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe too. But as long as their governments do not countenance pogroms, do not work actively on behalf of Israel’s enemies, and support Israeli policy, the leaders of Visegrad will be welcomed in Jerusalem. The writer served for five years as director of the Israel Government Press Office. (Bloomberg)