Western Europe

Israel Table of Contents

Israeli relations with the states of Western Europe have been conditioned by European desires to further their own commercial interests and ties with the Arab world and their heavy dependence on Middle Eastern oil. Europeans have provided political support for Arab states and the Palestinian cause, even though Europe has served as the battleground for Arab and Palestinian terrorist groups. For example, beginning in the early 1970s, the ministers of foreign affairs of the European Community called for Israel to withdraw from territories occupied during the June 1967 War, expressed "reservations" over the 1978 Camp David Accords, and accepted the "association" of the PLO in solving the Palestinian problem.

Despite such official declarations, West European states have been important trading partners for Israel; about 40 percent of Israel's foreign trade occurred with European countries. Furthermore, there has been strong European-Israeli cooperation-- except with Greece--in the area of counterterrorism. Britain was Israel's most important European trading partner although relations between the two countries were never free of tensions. In 1979, for example, Britain disallowed Israel's purchase of British crude oil after Israel lost oil deliveries from Iran and Sinai. Moreover, Britain imposed an arms embargo on Israel following its June 1982 invasion of Lebanon.

In the early 1950s, France and Israel maintained close political and military relations, and France was Israel's main weapons supplier until the June 1967 War. At that time, during Charles de Gaulle's presidency, France became highly critical of Israeli policies and imposed an arms embargo on Israel. In the early 1980s, French-Israeli relations markedly improved under the presidency of François Mitterrand, who pursued a more even-handed approach than his predecessors on Arab-Israeli issues. Mitterand was the first French president to visit Israel while in office.

Relations between Israel and the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) were "second in importance only to [Israel's] partnership with the United States," according to Michael Wolffsohn, a leading authority on the subject. In Wolffsohn's view, the dominant issues in West German-Israeli relations were: the question of reparations (up to 1953); the establishment of diplomatic relations (up to 1965); the solidification of normal relations (through 1969); the erosion in the West German-Israeli relationship as Chancellor Willi Brandt--the first West German chancellor to visit Israel--began to stress Israel's need to withdraw from all territories occupied in the June 1967 War and to recognize the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination; and, finally, during the 1980s, under the Christian Democrats, West Germany's closer adherence to United States policies on Arab-Israeli issues.

In January 1986, Spain established full diplomatic relations with Israel despite pressures from Arab states and policy differences between Madrid and Jerusalem over the Palestinian question. This step concluded intensive behind-the-scenes Israeli efforts--begun upon the death of President Francisco Franco in 1975--to achieve normal relations with Spain. Prior to establishing diplomatic relations, the two countries discreetly collaborated in antiterrorism efforts, and there were close ties between Labor and Spain's Socialist Party.

Although in 1947 Turkey voted against the UN resolution to establish the Jewish state, in 1948 it became the first Muslim country to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel. The two countries subsequently maintained normal relations.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress