Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair is Israel's best friend in Europe.
And he's not a very good friend.
Immediately after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US, Blair was instrumental in convincing US President George W. Bush to view the Palestinian jihad against Israel as a conflict completely separate from the global jihad. His success in convincing Bush of this distinction turned the anti-Semitic – not to mention strategically disastrous – view that terrorists who kill Israelis should be treated differently from terrorists who kill anyone else into one of the cognitive foundations of the US war on Islamic terror. This foundation was first enunciated in Bush's address of September 20 to a joint session of Congress where he identified "every terrorist with global reach" – that is every terrorist who isn't part of the Palestinian Authority – as enemies of the US.
Later, Blair was a principal force behind Bush's move to abandon the guidelines for dealing with the Palestinians that he enunciated in his speech of June 24, 2002. In that address, Bush stipulated that the Palestinians needed to transform themselves from a society that supported terror into one that combated terror in order to receive US support for Palestinian statehood.
Shortly after Baghdad fell to coalition forces in April 2003, Blair convinced Bush to accept the road map plan for Palestinian statehood. The road map, which effectively locks in US support for Palestinian statehood irrespective of Palestinian terrorism and radicalism, represented a practical abandonment of the positions that Bush set out in his June 24, 2002 address.
During his visit to the region this week, in keeping with his studied habit, Blair ignored the fact that the Iranian-backed Hamas government was elected to lead the Palestinian Authority by a large majority of Palestinians. He ignored the fact that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has voiced support for the abduction and continued captivity of Cpl. Gilad Shalit and for the continuation of the terror war against Israel. He ignored the fact that rather than working to overthrow the Hamas government, Abbas has begged Hamas to allow Fatah to join its government. To this end, Abbas has accepted Hamas's policy guidelines rejecting the possibility of recognizing Israel's right to exist and committing all Palestinians to unite in the war against Israel.
Ignoring all these inconvenient facts, Blair called on the Olmert-Livni-Peretz government to renew negotiations with Abbas on the basis of the road map.
And yet, for all this, Tony Blair is Israel's best friend in Europe. He is Israel's best friend because, in contrast to all his colleagues in Britain and the EU, Blair at least recognizes that the global jihad is a threat to the free world and that the price of not fighting the forces of jihad would be the loss of our freedom.
Soon, Israel's closest European friend will exit the world stage after being effectively sacked by his own Labor Party last week. British political commentators say the chances are slim that Blair will manage to hold onto the reins of power as a lame duck for the next 12 months, as he pledged. More likely, he will leave 10 Downing Street in a matter of months.
The two men most likely to succeed Blair – Chancellor Gordon Brown and Tory leader David Cameron – will be more similar to French President Jacques Chirac than to Blair in their attitudes toward Israel and the US. This is the case first and foremost because that is what the British people expect of them.
British antipathy towards the US and Israel was clearly exposed in an opinion poll published on September 6 in the Times of London. The poll reported that 73 percent of Britons believe that Blair's foreign policy, and especially his "support for the invasion of Iraq and refusal to demand an immediate cease-fire by Israel in the recent war against Hizbullah, has significantly increased the risk of terrorist attacks on Britain."
More than 62% said that to "reduce the risk of terrorist attacks on Britain, the government should change its foreign policy, in particular by distancing itself from America, being more critical of Israel and declaring a timetable for withdrawing from Iraq."
The day after the poll was published, Blair announced that he would leave office in a year.
Also, on September 7, a committee of members of Parliament released a report on anti-Semitism in Britain. The all-party committee found that that since the Palestinian jihad against Israel began in 2000, anti-Semitism in Britain has become a mainstream phenomenon. Attacks against Jews in Britain were at an all time high over the summer.
In their anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism, the British, of course, are no different from their Continental brethren. And the situation in Europe is alarming. Writing in Frontpage magazine this week, Islamic expert Andrew Bostom reported that in November 2005, Stephen Steinlight, the former director of education at the US Holocaust Memorial Council, told a conference in Washington that on average, Muslims attack Jews in Paris 12 times a day. According to Steinlight, this means French anti-Semitic violence is approaching the level of anti-Semitic violence in Germany during the days of the Weimar Republic.
These attacks against Jews in Europe are accompanied by ever increasing official hostility towards Israel on the part of European governments. On the second day of the war with Hizbullah, Chirac felt comfortable alleging that "Israel's military offensive against Lebanon is totally disproportionate." Chirac then acidly asked, "Is destroying Lebanon the ultimate goal?"
Chirac's remarks opened the floodgates for anti-Israel propaganda throughout Europe. They were followed by the barring of El Al cargo planes carrying weapons shipments from the US from European airports. That prohibition still stands.
From the moment Chirac launched this unjustified diplomatic assault against Israel, his government began acting as an agent of the Lebanese government, which itself acted throughout the war as Hizbullah's mouthpiece. So from the second day of the war, the groundwork was already laid for UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which treats Israel and Hizbullah as equals and lets both Syria and Iran off the hook for their central roles in Hizbullah's illegal war against Israel.
THROUGH THEIR behavior toward both Israel and the US, Europe's leaders have made clear that they will do just about anything to please the Muslim world. Even though Iran has made absolutely clear that it refuses to end uranium enrichment activities, or even to suspend them, the Europeans continue to insist on negotiating with the mullahs and refuse to take even the smallest concrete step against Iran in the UN Security Council.
As for the Palestinians, the Europeans have made no attempt to hide their eagerness to renew their monthly transfers of tens of millions of euros to the Palestinian Authority in the wake of Hamas's agreement to let Fatah join its jihadist government.
And in Lebanon, together with the UN, the Europeans have defined the rules of engagement for UNIFIL in a way that on the one hand protects Hizbullah, and on the other hand, prevents Israel from defending itself. Above all else, these policies clearly demonstrate that the Europeans have defined ingratiating the Muslim world as their primary geopolitical interest.
Seemingly unaware of Europe's growing hostility toward Israel, the Olmert-Livni-Peretz government has succumbed to the charms of the likes of Chirac, Romano Prodi and Javier Solana and is systematically abandoning Israel's positions in favor of Europe's pro-Arab stands. During his press conference with Blair, Olmert renounced his previous well-considered demand that Shalit be
released before any meeting can take place between him and Abbas.
During her visit to Washington, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni emphasized Israel's desire to renew negotiations with the Palestinians on the basis of the road map, and the government's continued support for Abbas. This, in spite of the fact that the government Abbas is forming with Hamas will not recognize Israel's right to exist and will be committed to continuing its jihad against Israel. In so doing, Olmert and Livni are lending informal approval to the renewal of European funding of the Palestinian Authority.
Even more troubling is the government's inaction, bordering on tacit support, regarding the radical Left's campaign to transfer responsibility for Israel's security from the IDF to Europe. The campaign, which New York Times columnist Tom Friedman enthusiastically dubbed, "Land for NATO," in his column on Wednesday, involves the adoption of the UNIFIL model in Gaza and Judea and Samaria. This newest messianic trend is based on the blind belief that Israel can continue giving land to the Palestinians in spite of the fact that the Palestinians are the most radical, pro-jihad society on the face of the earth, because Europe will protect Israel from them. Whether under the UN flag or the NATO flag, the new writ of leftist faith maintains that Europe can replace the IDF in defending the Jews.
Blair's stubborn refusal to acknowledge the simple fact that just as the Iranians will not cease uranium enrichment because they want to build atom bombs, so the Palestinians will reject all offers of statehood because they prefer to destroy the Jewish state is infuriating. And yet the fact remains that he is the last European leader who truly believes that Israel has an inherent right to exist and bases his policies on this belief. It is absolutely clear that in the coming years, Europe's hostility towards Israel and the Jewish people as a whole will continue to rise.
HOW THEN, is Israel to contend with Europe? As Israel's largest trading partner, relations with Europe are vital to Israel's economic well-being. So it is clear that Israel cannot simply turn its back on the free world's Achilles heel.
At the same time, given Europe's hostility, it is similarly obvious that the direction of the Olmert-Livni-Peretz government's policies toward Europe must be reversed. Rather than enabling Europe to increase its influence in the region, Israel must take every step possible to minimize Europe's foothold in its neighborhood.
Israel should use Blair's exit from the world stage as an opportunity to lock its doors and shutter its windows before any new European friends can come inside.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post