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Israel faces lowest point in Europe relations in decades

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But a fellow member of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Nachmann Shai, says Israel’s retaliatory settlement moves are detrimental to its global standing and reflect an about-face, after Netanyahu so carefully worked to get international opinion on Israel’s side during the eight-day Gaza campaign that ended Nov. 21.

“We lost this credit overnight because we didn’t know how to react to the Palestinian request at the UN,” says Mr. Shai, who has represented Israel’s interests to the world in many different positions over the course of his career, including as spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces. “The fact that we reacted by challenging the world community by doing something that we know for sure will make them angry … it’s like shooting ourselves in the leg, it’s against our interests.”

The Foreign Ministry could not be reached for comment. 

Hurt feelings

Some have characterized the dispute as the result of hurt feelings on both sides. European officials, who have shown more sympathy to Israel’s concerns than those of their own constituents – most recently sticking their necks out to support Israel’s recent military operation in Gaza – can’t help but feel that Israel has proven ungrateful.

“As much as we try to put a sophisticated analytical veneer on all this ... I don’t think you can completely dismiss the human reaction,” says Mark Heller, a fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. “It may not have been intended as slap in the face, but it looks like a slap in the face.”

On the Israeli side, meanwhile, years of harsh statements from Europe and the United Nations have left many calloused.

“There are undercurrents in the psyche, deeply held feelings that, ultimately, nobody likes us anyway, no matter what we do, and we’re really on our own,” says Dr. Heller. “Nobody else cares what we think, so why should we care what they think?”

Lowest point in decades

Sharon Pardo, director of the Center for the Study of European Politics and Society at Ben Gurion University, calls the current flap “one of the lowest points in the history of more than 50 years of EU-Israeli relations.” The only other incident he sees as comparable is the 1980 Venice Declaration, which recognized the Palestine Liberation Organization and affirmed the Palestinian right to self-government.

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