Dr.Manfred Gerstenfeld’s article was recently published at the JPost but without footnotes that are included at the end of this republished version, and with the author’s consent.
How Brexit Negotiations Can Help Israel
The Brexit negotiations are likely to be useful for Israel in a number of ways. One of these is that the British government, and in particular the country’s media, will expose in much detail the problems and misbehavior of the EU. An article in the British daily The Telegraph forecasts: “The EU will soon be crippled by Britain’s departure, robbing it of its financial center and billions of pounds a year in net contributions. The EU’s modus operandi has always been to buy support with German and British money, especially in poorer regions and in France’s agricultural heartlands: when the cash runs out, or is replaced by some euro-tax, tensions will flare up again.1
A second reason is the exposure of the problems of Europe’s leading countries. Even though the negotiations have not yet started, examples of this can already be found. One concerns France, a country which has a disproportionally weighty role in criticizing Israel and inciting against it in the EU, both in the past and under the current presidency.
The Telegraph, has published an article identifying France as the sick man of Europe.2 It mentions that France’s public debt has increased over the past eight years and is now approaching 100 percent of its GDP. This puts it among the top six EU countries suffering from high public debt. The paper also shows that French government spending was as high as 57 percent of its GDP in 2015. This puts it jointly with Finland at the top of the 28 EU members in terms of spending. France’s economic growth in 2015 was only 1.3 percent compared with the 2.2 percent average of the EU. It furthermore has the second highest level of labor disputes in the EU.
There are indications of a further advantage for Israel from the Brexit negotiations. International law has frequently been abused by the EU against Israel. Here also the UK has a vested interest to show that international law is a vague and inconsistent construct. The European Commission had threatened to force The UK to make payments of about 450 billion pounds sterling when it leaves the EU. Yet a financial affairs sub-committee of the House of Lords said in a report that “under international law the UK will not be legally obliged to contribute to the EU budget if an agreement is not reached at the end of Article 50 negotiations.”3 The committee said that even if the EU member states bring a case against the UK based on international law, it is slow to litigate and hard to enforce. The more the British will detail the limitations and shortcomings of international law, the better.
The late Meir Rosenne, former Israeli ambassador to the United States and France and international law expert has said, “There are two types of international law. One is applied to Israel, the other to all other states. This comes to the fore when one looks at the way Israel is treated in international institutions.…”
Rosenne mentioned as a typical example the 2004 International Court of Justice advisory opinion on the Israeli security fence. “In its judgment The Hague court decided that the inherent right of self-defense is enforced only if one is confronted by a state. If this were true, that would mean that whatever the United States undertakes against Al-Qaeda is illegal. This cannot be considered self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter because Al-Qaeda is not a state.”4
There is another likely source of problems which most probably will yield useful insights for Israel in its confrontations with both individual European countries and the EU. Though formally the Brexit negotiations are between the EU and Great Britain, the EU has to reach a consensus of its member countries on the terms to be agreed. Their interests are all very different and the negotiations with the UK are likely to be a source of tensions between them. The British will do their best to stoke these controversies. The more internal dissension the better for the UK.
About a year ago I had suggested in the Jerusalem Post that Israel prepares a black book on the EU’s misbehavior against it, as the European defamation of Israel and the undermining of its sovereignty are of major dimensions.5 This proposal is now obsolete. What will come out in criticism of the EU by the UK will be far more encompassing than Israeli experts could ever have achieved.
Now another approach will however be useful. Israel should establish a committee of government officials and outside experts, who out of the huge flow of articles and data, will identify those elements which can be used by Israel in its confrontations with the EU.
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is the emeritus Chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism, and the International Leadership Award by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
4 Meir Rosenne, personal communication, cited in Manfred Gerstenfeld, “European Politics: Double Standards toward Israel,” Jewish Political Studies Review 17, 3-4 (Fall 2005).