Barely a week has passed since the start of October, but this month is already shaping up to be a disaster of epic proportions for the architects of the European Union.
Over the course of just a few hours this past Sunday, the continent’s supranational superstructure suffered two damaging body-blows – one in the UK, the other in Hungary – which have further eroded its already shaky foundations.
Like a tower of blocks teetering on the brink of collapse, the 28-nation alliance appears doomed to have a past that is far sturdier than its future, and this is great news as far as Israel is concerned.
The first setback for the EU occurred at the Tory Party conference in Birmingham, England, where UK Prime Minister Theresa May ended months of speculation by announcing that her government will begin the formal Brexit negotiating process by the end of March 2017.
Ever since British voters stunned the world on June 23 by choosing to leave the EU, a growing chorus of voices across Europe had been calling on Downing Street to ignore the outcome of the referendum or perhaps hold a second vote in the hopes of overturning the results of the first.
But in her remarks, May was unambiguous and decisive, stating that the British people had spoken at the ballot box “with emphatic clarity,” and pointedly declaring that, “It is up to the government not to question, quibble or backslide on what we have been instructed to do, but to get on with the job.”
Once Britain formally invokes Article 50 of the EU’s 2009 Lisbon Treaty, it will trigger a negotiating process that could see the UK exiting the union possibly as soon as the summer of 2019.
While May was delivering her speech in England, voters in Hungary were taking part in a referendum of their own.
Asked about the EU’s idea to compel member states to take in a minimum number of the hundreds of thousands of migrants flooding the continent, a massive 98 percent of Hungarians who took part voted against the measure, thereby backing the stance taken by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
While the plebiscite fell short of the turnout required for it to be legally valid, Orban insisted that he would not capitulate to outside dictates. “Brussels cannot impose its will on Hungary,” he said.
Instead of accepting the basic principle that a country has the right to make its own decisions, the bumbling bureaucrats of Brussels proceeded to take the low road, smugly attacking Orban and further inflaming the row between Hungary and the EU.
Indeed, Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, the vice president of the European Parliament, went so far as to summon up a rather strange gastronomic metaphor, saying that “Europe will not work if everyone cooks their own national soup.”
Frankly, the EU has already come to resemble a deteriorating culinary project, as it marches forward in cooking its own goose.
And from a diplomatic standpoint, Israel stands to benefit from this turn of events, for two main reasons.
First, although it is Israel’s largest trading partner, the EU as an institution has become increasingly hostile to Israel.
Examples abound, ranging from the endorsement by European countries of a UN report that accused the Jewish state of having committed possible war crimes in the 2014 Gaza conflict, to the EU decision singling out Jewish- owned companies in Judea and Samaria and requiring that special labels be applied to the goods they produce.
Speaking as it does for all 28 members, the EU’s unified voice on the international stage is far louder and more influential than a cacophony of individual states, each with their own different policies, which will often conflict.
The fact is that countries such as the Czech Republic are far more sympathetic to Israel than France, but currently they are bound by the consensus position of the EU, which is decidedly less friendly to Jerusalem.
Second, the demise of the EU will mean a return to the idea of the nation-state, which has served as the basis of modern Western civilization. Drunk with the idea of a United Europe with a continental identity, many Europeans openly disdained Israel as a relic of the past because it had been established based on the “archaic” notion that the Jewish people required a country of their own.
But as the British, the Hungarians and possibly others go their separate ways, and reassert their own independence, the nation-state will be restored to its proper place in the international system, hopefully divesting some haughty Europeans of their self-righteousness vis-a-vis Israel.
October 2016 may well be remembered as a pivotal month, a further milestone in the downfall of the Tower of Babel that is the EU.
When and if the EU topples, it will free up individual states to pursue policies more to Israel’s liking, and weaken the relative power of those European nations that are hostile to our interests. And that will give us all reason to rejoice.
Reprinted with author’s permission from The Jerusalem Post