This is a summary of an event with José María Aznar, Prime Minister of Spain from 1996- 2004 and the founder and director of the Friends of Israel Initiative [FOI], on 30 January 2014; it reflects the views expressed by the speaker, not those of The Henry Jackson Society or its staff.
To view a full transcript of this event, click here
During this event, José María Aznar introduced and summarised his report, Value Added: Israel’s Strategic Worth to the European Union and its Member States, produced jointly by the FOI and the Henry Jackson Society. In the midst of a small but growing European campaign to cast Israel as a strategic liability to Europe, the report considers three key areas: Security, Economics and Science/ Technology, and argues that Israel—the Middle East’s only democracy and most innovative economy — is strategically vital for a secure, prosperous and influential Europe.
- Israel is the world’s sixth-largest exporter of military and security equipment.
- It was the first country in the world to produce unmanned aerial vehicles (drones), and today is the world’s leading producer of UAVs. British, Spanish and troops of other EU states have been protected by Israeli drones in Afghanistan.
- Israeli technology protects European icons including the Eiffel Tower, the Vatican and Buckingham Palace.
- Israel has world-class intelligence capabilities, and its intelligence on Middle Eastern rogue states and terrorist groups (particularly Hezbollah) is crucial to the security of the EU, which faces many of the same threats.
- The EU is Israel’s leading source of imports and second-leading export destination after the United States. Israel is the EU’s top commercial partner in the Eastern Mediterranean.
- The total trade relationship between the EU and Israel is roughly €30 billion, a relationship that continuing to grow year by year.
- Israel has weathered the global economic crisis far better than any EU state, and is third worldwide in terms of projected growth.
- Having recently discovered large natural gas fields, Israel offers Europe stability in its energy economy and is a solid alternative to the unreliable and authoritarian regimes of Russia and the Persian Gulf states.
Science and Technology
- Israel has over the last two decades become a high-tech and innovation powerhouse:
- Israel has more companies on NASDAQ than any country outside North America;
- It has the third- highest rate of entrepreneurship worldwide;
- 11% of the nearly 300 projects approved by the European Research Council in 2013 went to young Israeli scientists, putting it behind only Germany and the UK.
Conclusions and Recommendations
- Due to its Western culture and the benefits it brings the European Union, Israel should become a full member of the EU without pre-conditions.
- Unfortunately, recent discriminatory measures only serve to confirm Israeli suspicions of European hostility:
- Europe and Israel have clashed over the alleged disproportionality of Israel’s military campaigns in Gaza and Lebanon, and its continued building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
- In 2013, the European Commission set guidelines prohibiting EU funds from going to Israeli entities beyond the country’s pre- 1967 ‘Green Line’ boundary.
- Palestinian incitement is not condemned by the EU as are Israeli settlements.
- This perception of hostility could mean Israelis will become more inclined to do business with the growing economies of the Far East rather than the EU.
- During questions, Mr. Aznar argued that whilst US Secretary of State John Kerry’s new Mideast peace initiative is promising, it is unfair and unthinkable or Israel to sign an agreement with a state that refuses the Jewish state’s right to exist.
- Europe must defend Israel if we want to preserve the West and its way of life.
- Israel’s relationship with the EU and its member states is closer than commonly portrayed, and Israel is an enormously valuable asset to Europe. For the EU’s sake, this strategic relationship must be not only acknowledged but enhanced.