2003 May 30 Friday
Israel Mulls Application For European Union Membership

This idea has a lot of merit from a US standpoint: Europe would have to take responsibility for what happens between the Israeli Jews and Arabs.

WASHINGTON, May 21 (UPI) -- The visiting delegation from the European Union was startled this week when Israel Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said his government was weighing an application to join the EU.

"It doesn't mean he is preparing the dossier for applying tomorrow," an Israeli spokesman said. "In principle, the minister thinks a possibility exists for Israel to join the EU, since Israel and Europe share similar economies and democratic values."

In order to qualify for EU membership Israel would have to come up with negotiated settlements for all border disputes with the Palestinians, Syria, and possibly Lebanon (not sure of Shabaa Farms would be considered a real border dispute). But suppose that Israel could do that. If it joined the EU and Israeli citizens were free to live and work anywhere in the EU the biggest question in my mind would be which group in Israel would leave in largest numbers: Jews, Arab Christians, Arab Muslims, or others? Those others include the Druze (who are not quite conventional Muslims) and significant numbers of non-Jewish Russians.

Cato Institute research fellow Leon Hadar promotes this idea.

However, the EU might opt for a "third way." It could follow the dramatic U.S.-led military victory, by striking a diplomatic coup that could put the Europeans in the Middle East's driver's seat. To achieve that, the Europeans should remove the obstacles to the prompt entry of Turkey into the EU. They should also announce their readiness to open negotiations with a free and democratic Iraq, as well as with Israel and an independent Palestinian state that could lead to latter's gradual accession into the EU -- albeit a goal that would take many years to achieve.

The Cato folks see this as a way for the United States to be able to reduce involvement in the Middle East. While the Cato Institute's promotion of Israel's membership in the EU might allow a more isolationist foreign policy for the United States they are hardly being as ideologically pure (really, capital "L" Libertarianism as held by its strongest believers is a systematic ideology with simplifying assumptions about the world just like any other ideology) as they perhaps imagine themselves to be. They are arguing that the European states get involved in the Middle East in our place. By analogy, imagine that the Cato folks promoted an idea that would lower US taxes at the expense of making European taxes higher. Would that be principled libertarianism?

The problem with this proposal from the US standpoint is that the EU is going to be reluctant to accept Israel as a member as long as Israel will create problems for the EU with the Arabs. Well, basically that means the US will have to try to come up with a solution to the perennial conflict between the Israelis and the Arabs first. Suppose that this is even possible. Guess what? This requires heavy US involvement to bring the Middle East to the point where the conflict declines in intensity and gradually comes to a total end.

While some short and medium term progress could be made in Arab-Israeli relations thru wiser US foreign policy it is important to appreciate the extent to which Arabs think in terms of long periods of history. Many of them are upset by their loss of Spain, by the Crusades (never mind that Muslims were trying to attack into Europe during that time period and for centuries afterward - it is not like they are fair about their views on history), and assorted other events in history. Of course most Americans find these same events to be at best interesting historical curiosities or at worst boring old facts which, due to their relatively ancient (as Americans sense history) nature, should not have a great deal of influence over judgements made today. The Arabs, obsessed with the longer term historical view, are not going to accept deep down the state of Israel in the Middle East. The only practical question really is what is the best way forward to minimize the intensity of the feelings and death toll per year in various time frames.

My own very pessimistic long run view is that future technological advances (e.g. nanotech assemblers) will make WMD production so easy that assorted Arab countries and terrorists will eventually get nukes and other WMD and that some Arab groups or governments will eventually use them to kill millions of Jews in Israel. If Israel (or what is left of it - perhaps some submarines in the Indian Ocean) still has nukes then tens or hundreds of millions will be killed in retaliation. A grim view, I know. But hey, I call 'em as I see 'em. I do not like some aspects of what I see in the future. Sorry.

If, in spite of the poor prospects for peace in the Middle East, Israel could negotiate some peace agreements with neighboring countries, withdraw from the Territories, and build walls to separate themselves from the Palestinians then there might be a chance for Israel to be admitted to the EU. The biggest humanitarian advantage for Israeli membership in the EU is that more Jews would leave Israel before a nuclear terrorism attack on Israel occurs and hence fewer Jews would die in that attack.

But what about Europe? Europe's growing problem with Arab immigrants, the Turkish application for membership in the EU, and now the prospect of an Israeli membership application can be summed up in the first word in that EU acronym: Europe. Does Europe want to become the Eurabian Union? Does it want to become the Euro-Afro--Turkish-Arabic-Israeli Union? Would such a union become either an incredibly repressive and corrupt place or even decay into civil war? Home Sapiens are a lot more complicated and difficult to govern than the imagined Homo Economicus of utopian free market theory. Cultural beliefs matter. Religious beliefs matter. There are still other ways that people differ that have bearing on the question of who can live together under the same government and what kind of government will result as different sorts of folks are brought together to try to form one.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 May 30 04:04 PM  MidEast Arabs Versus Israelis


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