One of the takeways of the survey results is that political ideology and, to a lesser extent, nationality that determine how a particular member of the European Parliament will cast his vote on Israel-related issues. While Ireland ends up last on the list on its support for Israel, followed by Spain, support for Israel is more common in the new EU member states. Among the four largest EU member states, Italy and Poland score some of the highest points in support for Israel, which is also symptomatic for the fact that they are currently governed by the right-wing parties.
For many years, political commentators have been asking themselves how is the European Parliament relating to issues related to Israel.
The answer to this question was given on Tuesday (25 April) in the framework of the presentation in Brussels of the first ever survey on the support for Israel among the 199 national political parties represented in the European Parliament.
The survey, commissioned by the European Coalition for Israel (ECI) and conducted by Brussels-based research platform EU-Matrix, is based on the voting records on 71 items relaterd to Israel from 2019 to 2022. These items include votes on the EU-Israel Association Council, funding of Palestinian textbooks, EU’s aviation agreement with Israel…. The ranking does not only deal with political parties but also with EU-member states.
One of the takeways of the survey results is that political ideology and, to a lesser extent, nationality that determine how a particular Member of the European Parliament will cast his vote on Israel-related issues.
“As the voting records in the Foreign Affairs Council, where the EU Foreign Ministers meet and make formal decisions in relation to Israel, are not open to the public, the only way to measure how parties and nations relate to Israel is to look at the voting records in the European Parliament which is the only directly elected political body in the European Union,” said ECI Founding Director Tomas Sandell during a presentation of the results in the European Parliament on the eve of Israel’s 75th Independence Day.
These results do not come as a surprise to anyone who has studied EU-Israel relations over the years.
‘’For many friends of Israel, the European Parliament is often dismissed as helplessly anti-Israel whereas others try to portray it as the warmest friend of the Jewish state. This ranking reveals that there is not only one European Parliament attitude towards Israel but a complex cluster,’’ Sandell added.
Moreover, not only do the attitudes between the major political groups vary greatly but also within the political groups there is a variation.
The survey shows that the biggest support for Israel can be found among parties on the right of the centre in the European Parliament.
The most pro-Israel of all political groups is the European Conservatives and Reformists group (ECR), followed by Identity and Democracy (ID), the European People’s Party (EPP) and the liberal Renew group.
The further one gets to the political left the more critical are the attitudes towards Israel with Spanish government coalition partner Podemos party scoring the lowest of all parties, 0 percent in support for Israel of the 71 votes which were analysed. Three of the four least supportive parties in the European Parliament are Spanish left-wing parties.
“This result is a combination of two factors,” Sandell explained. ‘’As a typical populist left-wing party Podemos is highly critical of Israel. Combined with the fact that it originates from Spain, which has a history of anti-Israel rhetoric, it is not a surprise that it ends up last on the list. Still, looking at individual countries it is not Spain but rather Ireland which is the least supportive of Israel.’’
Among the parties which score the highest support for Israel is the Civic Democratic Party from the Czech Republic. This does not only represent a long-held tradition of Czech support for Israel but this is amplified by the fact that the party is politically situated on the right.
“The idea with the study is not to explain why the parties vote in a particular way but simply to present hard facts,” Sandell said.
‘’Still, the survey gives an interesting reading for all national constituencies. While Ireland ends up last on the list on its support for Israel, followed by Spain, support for Israel is more common in the new EU member states. Among the four largest EU member states, Italy and Poland score some of the highest points in support for Israel, which is also symptomatic for the fact that they are currently governed by the right-wing parties’’.
The ECI is planning to release this survey annually. This first EU-ranking comes only one year ahead of the next European Parliament elections.
“Despite its limitations, the matrix is an important first step to a more informed debate about EU-Israel relations,” Sandell said.
“It is a right of the EU-citizens to know how their national parties vote on issues related to Israel. This does not only contribute to a better and more informative debate but it also strengthens EU participatory democracy.”