On 1-2 December the Europe Israel Public Affairs and our partners- European Jewish Association (EJA) hosted our second Bootcamp for pro-Jewish and Pro-Israel advocates from all over Europe (literally! From Iceland to Spain, France to Romania and everywhere in between).
With practical training at its heart, this latest bootcamp gave participants proper hands-on experience in Lobbying techniques, media relations, opposition watch and network building.
Day one was focused on facts and lobbying. Ben Dror Yemini, the prominent Israeli journalist and author (his book “the industry of lies” is on the shelf of any self-respecting Israel advocate) gave the team all the facts (“I’m not a pr man”, he proudly exclaimed, I just give people the facts) necessary to counter opposition arguments.
We then spent the rest of the day dealing with the practicals of Lobbying. Our Head of Eu Institutional Relations, Ruth Isaac and our Director of Public Affairs ran through the do-and don’t’s, and were delighted to be supported by former Portuguese MEP Paulo Casaca who gave his experience of being on the receiving end of lobbyists, and lastly by new Belgian MP Michael Freilich, who gave his enlightening perspectives from “the other side of the desk” including invaluable advice and tips on effective lobbying.
At a Gala dinner in the evening, Hans Knopp was our special guest. Hans is a hugely respected dutch journalist whose most famous bit of reporting was exposing a dutch war criminal who helped the Nazis rob and murder Dutch Jews. His work was commemorated in a film “the body collector”, and he talked about his experience. His moving testimony brought the house down and he received a prolonged standing ovation.
The next morning, participants learned the basics of press release writing, followed by a role play and live interview practice with Brussels based broadcast journalist and regular on Euronews Brian Maguire who put the bootcampers through their paces.
After lunch prominent Swedish Zionist and activist Saskia Pantell , CIDI’s dutch opposition watch hero Hidde Van Koningsveld and our very onw campaigns officer Dafna Friedman shared their knowledge and expertise on opposition watching.
We then finished with an open session with Ben Dror again on the challenges in messaging before a closing panel with Ruth and our head of Strategy Tal Rabina on Network building.
Tired but fired up our advocates (many are soon to be members of the EJA’s inaugural Diplomatic Corps), left for home. Our next bootcamp is already being planned. If you want to be part of it, let us know.
With the European elections results coming in overnight there are some surprises, but many predictable outcomes. The elections have ramifications for Europe’s position in the world because the more Europe is unstable and fractured by infighting, the less it will play a role in world affairs. In addition, the more extreme parties in Europe will fuel the continued cycle of the instability, likely exacerbating the inability of the continent to act as a whole on policies, leaving such issues as immigration and security in the hands of states that have deepening societal divisions.
Here is a quick glance at what we know so far on Monday.
Nigel Farage and his Brexit Party remakes map of UK politics
The pro-Brexit leader Nigel Farage, who appeared to leave politics after the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016, led a new party to a surprising thirty percent of the votes in the UK European elections. These elections weren’t supposed to even happen because the UK was already supposed to have left the EU. His message was that his party wants to take responsibility for leaving the EU and that if the ruling Conservatives don’t act then they will be crushed at the next polls.
The Conservatives already were humiliated in the EU elections in the UK, receiving less than ten percent. The Liberal Democrats performed well with almost 20 percent of the vote while Labour slipped to 14% and the Greens grabbed 11%. It’s clear that a coalition of Labour, the Greens and Liberal-Democrats, with the Scottish Nationalists, likely could run the UK after the next general election. For now it is the EU that will be getting Farage back.
Germany goes Green
In Germany the centrist and historically dominant Christian Democrats and Social Democrats lost votes to the Green Party. The Greens took twenty percent of the vote while the right wing AfD took ten percent. For Germany, any notion that right wing parties might do well always conjures up comparisons to the past. But the reality is that there is no massive swing to the far-right in Germany, yet. Instead the major parties are simply being weakened. The smaller leftist Die Linke party, for instance, took five percent of the vote. Liberals took another five percent.
Le Pen wins, again, in France
Marine Le Pen’s National Rally defeated President Emmanuel Macron’s party by a whopping 23.3% to 22.4%. This is supposed to make us all gasp that Lep Pen has “won,” but she hasn’t really won anything. Macron has been beset by massive protests by the “yellow vests” and French politics is fickle. They tend to dislike their presidents. The Le Pen phenomenon has continued for twenty years in France. In 2002 Jean-Marie Le Pen received 17% in the presidential election. Marine Le Pen got 33% of the vote in 2017. So her 23% isn’t a win, it’s a loss for her party. It just looks good in comparison to Macron’s failure. The real winners, in a sense, in France were the Greens with 13% of the vote, an increase from last time. See a pattern here with the Greens doing better in Germany and the UK?
Italy’s one third
A third of Italians voted for the Lega, Matteo Salvini’s party that is popular in the north of the country. Another 23% voted for the social democrats while only 16% chose the Five Star Movement, a new party that had got around a third of the vote in the 2018 elections. It appears that Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia got 7% of the vote. One supposes that means former Italian leader Mr. Berlusconi is back in politics, something he has been trying to achieve for the last few years. The end result in Italy is that although the right wing is doing well, they are still divided and kept at a third of the votes.
Sweden’s moderate politics
Not so long ago Sweden thought that it might be swept up in populist politics with the rise of the Sweden Democrats. The wave appears to be cresting as they now have 15% of the vote, a continual rise from 2018 when they had 13% in national elections. But the rest of Sweden’s politics is predictable. The Moderate party got 16% and the center-left took 23%. The Greens now have 11%.
Flemish Nationalism rises in Belgium
The new Flemish Alliance, which had 20% in the 2014 vote got only 13% in the EU elections, but its more far-right Vlaams Belang got 11%. On the left the socialists took 10%, the French speaking Greens 7% and the Flemish speaking Greens another 7%. Flemish socialists also got 6%. All in all the politics in Belgium is so divided that it’s hard to make any real conclusions, besides the obvious fact that the Flemish right is rising. Previously the the Vlaams Belang had only around 3% of the vote. But a previous incarnation of the far-right, the Vlams Blok, once got 12% of the vote in 1994 and 15% in 1999. So the new far-right Flemish speakers have merely gone back to what they used to have.
Puigdemont gets a seat in Spain
The Catalan separatist Carles Puigdemont secured a seat in Spain while another group supporting local regions, Ahora Republicas, got 5% of the votes. Its leader Oriol Junqueras has been in imprisoned on charges of “rebellion.” The populist Vox party got 6% of the vote in Spain. Overall Spain’s politics are largely dominated by the normal parties with the socialists getting 32% and the center-right People’s Party getting 20%. Another center-right Citizens party got 12%.
Viktor Orban continued his dominance of Hungarian politics, taking more than 50% of the vote in the EU elections there. He has been the leader of the Fidesz party for years and a dominant figure since the late 1990s. It is the only European country where a party got over 50% of the vote.
Poland goes for two big parties
Poland looks the way western European countries used to look in its voting pattern for two large parties. Forty-three percent chose a right wing conservative party called Law and Justice, while 38% chose the European Coalition. In general Poland’s politics have not fractured like many other countries in Europe.
Austria’s Greens and Freedom Party
Austrian politics also looks relatively normal in the EU election, with the People’s Party taking 34% and the Social Democrats taking 23%. The Freedom Party, with is more right wing, has 17% and the Greens 14%. This looks like the 2017 Austrian legislative elections in which the Freedom Party got 20% and the Greens got 12%. Basically there is no news from Vienna.
Romania’s socialists lose out
In Romania the center-right National Liberal Party got 27% of the vote while the Social Democrats got only 24%. A centrist party called USR-PLUS got another 18%. The Social Democrats had 45% of the vote as recently as 2016. They now have been handed a major defeat. Romania matters to the Eu because it has 32 seats in the 751 parliament, making it one of the larger members in the 28 member block. Germany, Italy, France and the UK are the largest, followed by France and Poland.
Ireland also goes Green a bit
Ireland largely voted for the parties one would expect, Fine Gail got 29% and Fianna Fail got 15%. This represented a defeat for Fianna Fail while the Green Party grabbed 15%, much more than in the 2016 elections in Ireland. Sinn Fein got 13%, which is exactly what it got in 2016. No big surprises here, except for the Greens.
Netherlands says goodbye to populism
The Party for Freedom (PVV) once had 16% and 13% in EU elections in 2009 and 2014. But it slipped to a dismal failure in the 2019 elections, illustrating the far-right nationalism may not be on the march. It came in second with 13% of the vote in the 2017 general elections in Holland. But the Dutch decided on more traditional politics this election, sending Labour to the EU with 19% of the vote and the People’s Party with 14%. The Greens got 10% of the vote. The surprising failure of the populists and nationalists in Netherlands may point to a turning point in that country and others. After almost two decades, since the days of the Pim Fortuyn List, politics in the low country seem a bit more traditional.
The article was published on The JPost
Rivlin meets with Spanish Prime Minister, calls on him to change how Spain votes in international forums such as UNESCO.
President Reuven Rivlin met today (Tuesday) with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajuez at the Prime Minister’s palace in Madrid.
Rajuez has been Prime Minister of Spain since December, 2011 and President of the People’s Party since 2004. The meeting was also attended by Minister Gila Gamliel, who accompanied the President’s entourage.
Citing the 30th anniversary of the establishment of relations between Israel and Spain, the President emphasized the special relations between the two countries and the historical roots of the relationship. The President thanked the Prime Minister for the reception and expressed his appreciation for the cooperation between Israel and Spain in various fields, stressing that Israel has a sincere desire to preserve and deepen existing ties both in the field of security and in the fields of economy and innovation.
“The secret of our relationship rests on a strong bond not only between states, but also between peoples,” the President said. “The historical family roots of many Israelis are to be found here.”
The President expressed his condolences for the terror that struck Spain last August, adding that the entire free world must join forces to ensure the eradication of terrorism: “Terrorism and religious extremism are a global and tangible threat that affect us all. Unfortunately, we have experience in the field and are willing to contribute by all means available to us in order to combat this phenomenon.”
The President spoke to the Prime Minister about the government’s stance against the boycott campaign, saying that the campaign was “tainted by anti-Semitic elements.” He also asked the Prime Minister to promote legislation in order to prevent similar steps in the future. “BDS must stop,” the President continued. “It is permitted to protest but it’s forbidden to cross the line into boycotts.”
In this context, President Rivlin said that that Israel would be pleased to see Spain change its voting pattern in international forums in a way that would reflect the good bilateral relations between the two countries. “There are decisions taken in international forums that constitute a violation of integrity and intelligent thought.”
“I want to remind you,” said the President, “that the King of Spain is also called the King of Jerusalem and to be a part of UNESCO and say that there is no connection between Jerusalem and the Jewish people is not only ignorance, it is an affront to intellectual integrity. I therefore ask you to make sure that you are not taking part in decisions that result from irrelevant political struggles.”
The President and the Prime Minister discussed at length the regional situation in the Middle East. The President stressed that Iran is a subversive element leading to the establishment of a Shiite axis in Syria and the entire Middle East, in an attempt to exploit the crises in the region. “The State of Israel closely follows the growing Iranian presence in Syria and operates according to the clear red lines that we have defined.”
On this issue, the President stressed, “The terror that Iran exports is a threat to the entire world,” and explained that the Iranian hold on Yemen with the Houtis and through them could lead to damage to international trade routes, which could be very damaging to Europe as well.
As for the nuclear deal, the President told the Prime Minister that Israel and the Western world can not allow a country like Iran that supports terror and calls on the UN to destroy Israel to have nuclear capabilities and stressed to the Spanish Prime Minister: “We must work together to prevent this at all costs. The current agreement does not benefit either Israel or Europe, and even endangers the security and stability of the region,” the President said, adding personally to the Spanish Prime Minister that if the agreement does not change: “We must ensure strict adherence to all parts of the agreement and even try to improve it, alongside plans for the day after its expiration.”
After the meeting, a cooperation agreement was signed in the presence of the President and the Spanish Prime Minister, renewing the historic agreement signed between the two countries for the first time in 1987. The agreement was signed by the Israeli and Spanish ambassadors, and includes cooperation in various fields and mutual recognition in the subjects of education and cultural science as well as mutual scholarships for students and lecturers. The agreement also includes a declaration of intentions for joint work on education against racism and antisemitism as well as education on the Holocaust.
The article was published on Arutz 7 website
Spain, Finland, Russia: in the space of a few days, Europe is reminded, yet again, that terrorism – like the virus it is – kills brutally, indiscriminately and, critically, transnationally.
On Thursday, August 17, a van rammed into crowds of people in Barcelona’s Las Ramblas boulevard – a hub of tourism and social life. Thirteen were killed with dozens more injured. The atrocity was followed by a knife attack the very next day in the Finnish city of Turku, which killed two people and injured eight. Another knife attack, this time in the Siberian city of Surgut on the 19 August, injured eight. Islamic State has claimed responsibly for all the attacks.
In a democratic society based on liberal values it is impossible to stop every madman that wishes us harm. Sadiq Khan was criticised but right when he said that the threat of terror attacks was now ‘part and parcel of living in a big city’. If you want total security move to North Korea.
Recent terror ‘successes’, however, are more to do with state failings than terrorist brilliance. In too many countries counter-terrorism measures are still insufficient. And the reason is simple: We are fighting 21st century terrorism with 20th century methods. Nonetheless, more can, and must, be done. One country, above all, has the method and the solution: Israel.
This little country of eight million has been dealing with terrorism since the state’s inception 70 years ago. From airline hijackings to suicide bombers to stabbings, shooting and vehicle attacks, Israel has seen them all – and has adapted accordingly.
Pini Schiff, Israeli Former Head of Security at the Israel Airports Authority believes the most pressing change that Europe needs to make is at the intelligence level. ‘Both the U.K. and France, for example, have really professional agencies,’ he says, ‘but that is not enough. There is not enough communication between intelligence agencies across Europe, like there is between all branches of the Israeli security services. It needs to be a ‘one nation’ intelligence community.’
He’s right. The horrific attacks in Brussels in March 2016 that killed 32 people were, in part, enabled by the absurdity of a city with a population of 1.5 million having six police forces, which didn’t communicate properly with one another. This led to major intelligence failings. While an extreme case, this sort of senseless de-centralisation is what allowed the attackers to slip through and it is present (to far lesser degrees) across Europe
European countries must now come together as one to combat terror – be it far right or jihadist. Both Interpol and Europol are European-wide police agencies focusing on a wide array of criminal activities. In January 2016, the European Counterterrorism Centre was set up as an organ of Europol. It is clearly failing. It must become autonomous and receive increased funding.
Intelligence is the first level at which terror must be fought. But the war is now also on the streets. Urban centres are the new battleground. As an Israeli counter-terrorism official (who cannot be named due to the sensitivity of his work) told me: ‘simple things, like placing bollards and barriers at strategic points in major centres can almost eliminate the possibility of vehicle rammings’.
But the most important changes must come at the level of education. A principle problem with terror is that it forces us into ever more intrusive legislation. An educated public can relieve the burden. As the counterterrorism official explains: ‘In the 21st century we have witnessed the new phenomenon of the lone wolf: Someone not part of a cell, someone who doesn’t buy guns or explosives and is therefore much harder to track.’
If someone can now be radicalised just by going on the internet, what can be done? Well, for a start, in Israel, the police have a dedicated Facebook page where people can report terrorist content they find posted on social media, and, critically, all of which is checked. It has saved lives.
Combating the threat of the lone wolf – and avoiding more draconian anti-terror legislation – comes with greater public awareness.
‘If, for example, you see your neighbour going out at 3am every night or see him or her buying a lot of knives, or carrying a suspicious backpack. Look at Anders Breivik,’ the counterterrorism official concludes, ‘all the red flags were there before and no one did anything. People need the courage to speak up. Every tip can lead the authorities to something much bigger.’
The Op-Ed was written by David Patrikarakos and was published in blogs.spectator.co.uk