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Friends of ELNET President David Siegel Discusses State of Israel-Europe Relations

Published: in Jewish News by .

David Siegel, President of the pro-Israel group Friends of the European Leadership (ELNET), discussed the latest regarding Europe’s relationship with Israel and how European countries are combating antisemitism in a sit-down interview with the Journal.

The post Friends of ELNET President David Siegel Discusses State of Israel-Europe Relations appeared first on Jewish Journal.

David Siegel, President of the pro-Israel group Friends of the European Leadership (ELNET), discussed the latest regarding Europe’s relationship with Israel and how European countries are combating antisemitism in a sit-down interview with the Journal.

Siegel, former Counsul General of Israel in Los Angeles, began by saying that what’s currently happening with the Taliban re-taking the country will have a ripple effect throughout the Middle East “for years to come” depending what action the West takes. He warned that the Arab nations could “feel very exposed” against a reenergized Iran thus be pressured into Iran’s orbit or be encouraged to join a stable, regional coalition with Israel, the West and the Arab nations that formed peace agreements with the Jewish state under the 2020 Abraham Accords. Actions in the Middle East can easily spillover into European nations, Siegel said.

“If you look at the streets of France today, you will see that what whatever happens in the Middle East doesn’t stay in the Middle East, but it directly affects that part of Europe,” Siegel said. 

“If you look at the streets of France today, you will see that whatever happens in the Middle East doesn’t stay in the Middle East, but it directly affects that part of Europe,” Siegel said. “So radical Islam, political Islam, is a major issue in France. It rivals COVID-19 and its economic impact because these are enormous issues at stake for the future of France and other countries in Europe. The role of Turkey, the refugee issue, and now the added refugees or immigrants from Afghanistan that will flow into Turkey… Turkey will likely use this as leverage vis a vis European countries.”

Siegel argued that “Europe is moving and converging toward Israel because the fallout from the Middle East is affecting them directly” including the myriad terror attacks that have occurred in various European countries over the past 15 years. ELNET taking various members of European countries’ parliaments, including the French parliament, on trips to Israel has had an effect on policy,” Siegel said, pointing to the French government’s recent actions of adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism and fighting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. “These are significant achievements,” he said.

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Following the spate of antisemitism worldwide during the Israel-Hamas conflict in May, Siegel pointed out there were “very, very unprecedently strong government response[s]” from European countries, such as barring people from holding demonstrations against Israel. “We saw much fewer demonstrations in the streets. We saw 20 European countries that publicly stood up for Israel, some of them for the first time.” He pointed to German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressing support for “Israel’s right to respond massively to the Hamas terror attack” as well as the Austrian government refusing Iran’s then-Foreign Minister’s Javad Zarif’s demand that they take down the Israeli flag from their government building or else he wouldn’t come and meet with them. “We’re seeing reactions in Europe that are reflecting this change… and this is only the beginning,” Siegel said.

ELNET and other organizations have been actively working to stem the flow of money from the European Union (EU) parliament and individual European countries’ governments for Palestinian Authority (PA) textbooks that incite hatred against Jews and Israelis and organizations that “encourage hatred and radicalism,” according to Siegel. “In several key cases, we’ve seen several key politicians in Europe stand up against their own governments and challenge them, and say, ‘Why are we supporting this or that organization that are involved in radicalism?’” Members of the French parliament, for instance, have stopped government from money from being funneled to such organizations, and the past couple of years there has been action taken in the EU parliament to stop funding PA textbooks. “We’ve seen clear success on this, but a lot more clearly needs to be done,” Siegel said.

ELNET and others have also been working toward  getting European nations to designate Hezbollah in its entirety, not just its military wing, as a terror organization.

ELNET and others have also been working toward getting European nations to designate Hezbollah in its entirety, not just its military wing, as a terror organization. Siegel said that the decision by various European countries to designate only Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist organization is political, as even Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has said there’s no difference between Hezbollah’s wings, but the prevailing argument among such European nations is the distinction is necessary in order engage with Lebanon. “We never accepted that,” Siegel said. “Many Europeans admitted to us privately at the time that it’s inaccurate and it’s fiction and it needs to change.”

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In 2014, the Netherlands was the first European nation to designate Hezbollah as a terror organization in its entirety; in 2019, both Britain and Germany followed suit. Siegel said that Hezbollah had been using Europe as a base for money laundering, drug trafficking, and arms trafficking; ELNET also took various German politicians on trips to Israel, where they received a tour of various Hezbollah terror tunnels. The German government eventually raided various Hezbollah offices in the country and shut the terror group’s German operations down for good.

“What Germany did… was a huge moment because that created momentum for other countries to follow,” Siegel said, adding that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) issued a statement praising ELNET’s efforts on the matter. Today, 12 European countries have decided to entirely ban Hezbollah.

“We know that Iran is concerned about this, and Hezbollah is certainly concerned about this because we’ve shut down a third of the continent,” Siegel said. “And they’re going to the other countries where they’re not designated yet, and that’s where they’re shifting their operations.” He added that ELNET is “on the prowl” to get more countries to ban Hezbollah.

“This is one way that we as a community can really have an effect on Iran,” Siegel said. “We don’t have to wait for world powers to decide on the outcome of negotiations. We can put pressure on Iran directly by shutting down Hezbollah.”

On the Iran nuclear deal, Siegel argued that the “clock is ticking” because the Iranian government is ramping up its nuclear enrichment and advanced centrifuges in violation of the deal. While most of the world understands the danger of Iran developing a nuclear bomb, Israel understands that the danger lies in Iran becoming a “threshold state,” meaning that they’re “on the cusp of military nuclear capacity and it’s in your hands to decide when you’re going to turn on the switch or not,” Siegel said. “Israel cannot tolerate that stage of their program, but many governments around the world unfortunately can, and that’s where the gap is that needs to be addressed.”

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The post Friends of ELNET President David Siegel Discusses State of Israel-Europe Relations appeared first on Jewish Journal.

Source: Jewish Journal https://jewishjournal.com/community/340426/friends-of-elnet-president-david-siegel-discusses-state-of-israel-europe-relations/

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