Analysis: Netanyahu forges coalition with ‘friendly’ European nations

Netanyahu attended a summit in Bulgaria where he forged ties with friendly governments within the European Union.

By Daniel Krygier, World Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to build his own coalition of friendly governments, meeting on Nov. 1 with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov at a quadrilateral summit in Bulgaria which also included the leaders of Greece, Serbia and Romania. 

While trade and technological relations between the European Union and Israel are strong, the Jewish state has objected to Europe’s strong pro-Ramallah bias in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Brussels has emerged as one of Israel’s harshest critics in the global arena, especially with regards to the existence of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. At the same time, the European Union is one of Ramallah’s main financial backers and has largely ignored the virulent antisemitism being spread by the Abbas-regime.

To offset this bias, Jerusalem is strengthening ties with conservative governments in central and eastern European states that tend to be more skeptical towards the European Union’s policies.

During the past year, Netanyahu met with Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban and with the Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. Earlier this year, the Israeli Prime Minister also met the leaders of the three Baltic states at a summit in Lithuania.

Israel’s prime minister sows in fertile ground. The former communist states in eastern Europe feel like second-class members within the European Union. Central and eastern European countries such as Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have been subjected to criticism from Brussels for their refusal to accept large numbers of immigrants from Muslim majority countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

Critics have argued that in its effort to build alliances, Jerusalem has been too quick to forgive the anti-Semitic legacies in most Eastern European countries during, before and after the Holocaust. In this context, Bulgaria stands out as a unique country.

With the more famous exception of Denmark, Bulgaria was virtually one of very few Nazi-occupied European countries that protected and saved most of its Jews during the Holocaust. As a result, much of the Bulgarian Sephardic Jewish community relocated to Israel after the state was established in 1948.

Apart from cultural and historic affinities with Israel, the eastern European states have expressed interest in expanding trade and benefiting from the Jewish state’s cutting-edge technologies. Netanyahu has been urging these countries to advocate for more European pressure on Iran’s regime.

During his visit, Netanyahu suggested Bulgaria join the planned Eastmed gas pipeline between Israel, Cyprus and Greece. The discovery of huge gas reserves off Israel’s coast, could become a game changer in longer-term relations between the European Union and Israel. 

This will only strengthen ties with eastern European countries like Bulgaria , which in the short term at least, have emerged as Israel’s best friends in Europe.