US and Europe give Israel free hand in Gaza

Solidarity with Israel at the Brandenberg Gate credit: Reuters Sven K?uler/dpa
Solidarity with Israel at the Brandenberg Gate credit: Reuters Sven K?uler/dpa

The surprise attack on Israel by Hamas has outraged western public opinion and is being compared with 9/11 and the Bataclan massacre in Paris.

In the past 48 hours, one after another, Western leaders have expressed unequivocal support for Israel and its right to defend itself. Against the background of the disturbing pictures from the communities bordering the Gaza Strip, which included the slaughter of civilians, kidnapping of children and families, and hostage-taking incidents, the rhetoric of these leaders is clearer than ever, and indicates an important green light for Israel to embark on an unprecedented campaign in the Gaza Strip.

On Saturday evening, US President Joe Biden stood before the cameras and declared: "The United States stands with Israel. We will not ever fail to have their back." US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin added that "the Department of Defense will work to ensure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself and protect civilians from indiscriminate violence and terrorism."

Support in the EU was also unequivocal. "Today, terrorists from Hamas have struck at the heart of Israel, capturing and killing innocent women and children. Israel has the right to defend itself - today and in the days to come. The European Union stands with Israel," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote.

Similar messages about Israel’s right to defend itself have been heard in Europe in Berlin, Paris, Rome, and Prague. "We extend our full solidarity to Israel, and it has the full right under international law to defend itself," wrote German foreign minister Annalena Barbuk. "France stands in solidarity with Israel and the Israelis, committed to their security and their right to defend themselves," wrote the president of France Emmanuel Macron. UK prime minister Rishi Sunak said, "We will work with our international partners in the coming days to coordinate help (for Israel." Even High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell on the left has spoken of his full solidarity with Israel. He also demanded that the hostages that were taken be immediately released.

These and similar words, which have been heard from a number of heads of other countries, signify that Western countries are giving Israel a free hand at this stage for a military operation. If in the past some of the parties talked mainly about the principle of "proportionality" and the need for the Israeli response to be "proportional" to the vulnerability it experienced, now the concept has vanished. It could reappear, as the number of victims in the Gaza Strip increases, but for now it is off the table. Some speakers mention the need for "sustainable peace", but it is clear to everyone that this is a unilateral attack on Israel that deserves a military response the likes of which has not been seen so far.

Not just the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

The fact that this was a surprise attack against Israel, which was carried out without any special provocation by Israel in recent days, as well as its nature, which included indiscriminate shooting of innocent civilians including children and the elderly, has focused the European and international position, and is now leading to more major support for Israel. For the Europeans, at this stage, it is less about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and more about an event like the Bataclan massacre in Paris, or other Islamic terrorist events. The comparisons in the European media are with 9/11 or the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Israeli flags were raised and projected in a series of European capitals and in the US as a sign of solidarity with Israel. In Berlin, the Israeli flag was projected over the Brandenburg Gate, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz as well as senior German figures, posted the image with the comment "Solidarity with Israel." The Israeli flag was also projected onto the European Commission building in the heart of Brussels. In Vienna, the Israeli flag was hoisted on the city hall. In New York, the top of the Empire State Building was lit up in blue and white as a sign of sympathy with what is happening in Israel.

In Germany in particular, the attacks on Israel shocked the media and the political establishment. The publisher of the daily newspaper "Tagesspiegel" wrote in an article on Sunday that Berlin should put content into its past promises that "the security of the State of Israel is one of the reasons for the existence of the Federal Republic of Germany." He wrote that Germany should supply weapons to Israel, consider participating in international peacekeeping forces in Lebanon or perhaps on the Gaza-Egypt border, and announce the cessation of funding for humanitarian projects in the Gaza Strip, including a large wastewater treatment facility that Berlin built at its own expense. Also the fact that one of the hostages taken to Gaza is a German citizen, and that her mother was interviewed by the local media and begged for any information about her fate, draws sympathy from the German public.

The conflict in Gaza could spill over into European cities

Alongside the displays of solidarity with Israel, there were also celebrations by Hamas supporters in some European capitals including Vienna, Berlin and London. In the Neukolln district of Berlin, several dozen Hamas supporters from the extreme Palestinian organization Samidoun gathered and clashed with the police. Chanting against Israel forbidden in Germany as part of the laws against anti-Semitism. Some of the protesters were arrested and the police said they recorded those who fled in order to file charges.

Europe has already learned about the speed with which the conflict in Gaza spills onto the streets of the big cities, where there are large populations of immigrants from the Middle East. This was the case during the last operations and rounds of fighting between Hamas and Islamic Jihad and Israel, when there were huge demonstrations as well as anti-Semitic incidents. In Sweden and Germany they have already increased protection of Jewish institutions.

Currently, European public opinion is shocked and stunned by the Hamas attack this weekend. But as the number of victims on the Palestinian side increases, and as the Israeli side demonstrates its military superiority and exacts a heavy price from the Gaza Strip in attempts to beat Hamas into submission, European support may erode. In the meantime, Europe and the US are unequivocally on Israel's side, but the question is how strong the support will remain as Israel's campaign in Gaza moves forward.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - - on October 9, 2023.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2023.

Solidarity with Israel at the Brandenberg Gate credit: Reuters Sven K?uler/dpa
Solidarity with Israel at the Brandenberg Gate credit: Reuters Sven K?uler/dpa
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