Oslo: EAI – A mature European organisation

Last year, on 10 May, the European Alliance for Israel (EAI), an organisation that brings together associations of friendship with Israel, at the time from 20 continental states, was born within Berlin’s imposing Bundestag.

According to press reports, EAI defines itself as a non-partisan organisation not affiliated to any religious community, and its members – around 30,000 according to recent assessments – are most of them non-Jewish. The international association plans to augment at the level of the European continent the support for the independent existence of the state of Israel, militating against its delegitimisation by those who do not recognise it, opposing anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism and acting for a future Middle East that is stable, secure from wars and evolving in democracy and prosperity.

The alliance is led by Corina Eichenberger-Walther, a Swiss MP, and brings together personalities from international life – the organisation’s “honorary board” is an impressive collection of names from the continent’s political and cultural life, ranging from Edith Cresson, former French Premier, to Gunnar Hokmark, Norwegian member of the European Parliament, and Arthur Cohn, a known film producer from Switzerland – and its activity can be assessed as having been robust on the international plane in the year that passed. Whether it reacted, for instance, in the case that concerned the temporary cancellation of the opening of an exhibition consecrated to the millennial history of the Jewish state in Paris, under the UNESCO aegis, or protesting against the intention to exclude Israel from the European Football Federation, such actions had the reverberation sought.

The Alliance’s first annual summit took place this year in Oslo, in the country in which the association of friendship with Israel has around 10,000 members competently organised by their leader Conrad Myrland. It is enough to follow this Norwegian association’s frantic activity on social networks to realise that it is a veritable example of dynamism and vision. Hilik Bar, Secretary General of Israel’s Labour Party and Knesset Deputy Speaker alike, was key-note speaker at this annual summit. His speech emphasised what is, in his assessment, the predominant political view in Israel on the issue of solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the minor political minority – majority differences in defining the Jewish state’s essential evolution lines being striking.

Before revealing some of these Israeli political orientations of essence, some words have to be said about the dynamic of EAI’s activity this year, as outlined in the debates at the annual assembly. First of all, it has to be pointed out that the number of member associations has risen, associations from Poland, Georgia and Iceland being admitted to the EAI, and ample efforts are being made in order to include similar organisations from United Kingdom, Croatia and Albania. At any rate, EAI now totals 23 associations, which speaks volumes in what concerns its weight in European public opinion and is an efficient guarantee of the activity carried out. EAI’s summit in Oslo also saw the launch of a first large-scale project, namely the creation of a European Parliamentarian Alliance for Israel.

Operating as a special body within EAI, it has the role to bring together members of national parliaments and of the European Parliament dedicated to the free and independent existence of the state of Israel. It has to be mentioned that at the first summit of this new body, Romanian MP Florin Alexe, member of the Lower Chamber, was elected chairman. It has to be said that the project is just starting, so that its evolution will depend on the energy and dynamism of the founding members and of the EAI as a whole. The speech given by Mr. Hilik Bar at the summit’s plenum on April 17 was listened with special interest by those present.

The speaker saluted EAI’s activity and appreciated the efforts it carries out in order to coagulate on the continent a public opinion trend favourable to the state of Israel, forced to wage throughout its modern existence, since 1948, numerous wars in order to defend its independence. In the Middle East’s complex and contradictory context – and the latest developments in this region are indicative of the turmoil in which the whole region is caught up – the speaker showed that the duty of politicians is not so much to manage the conflicts as it is to prevent the conflicts. Hence, they should do “all in our power to pursue opportunities to bring peace between Israel and its neighbours, between Jews and Arabs that will bring prosperity to our region that will be a benefit for all the states in the nations around us.”

In what concerns the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Hilik Bar mentioned that “we have to separate the two states,” but just the same “we can talk about what kind of nature of the other state [Palestinian one – author’s note] will have and it will be demilitarized that will not threaten.” Hence, as the speaker emphasised, the peace plan proposed by his party in July 2016 includes the two state solution and, in this sense, “we have to generate a positive momentum during negotiation and toward an agreement.” In what concerns the Palestinian state, apart from stressing the fact that it should not be in the position to threaten Israel militarily, the speaker pointed out that territories in the West Bank, ancient cradle of civilisation, will belong to it but in what concerns the refugees’ right of return, a concession is needed.

The speaker mentioned that “they [the Palestinians – author’s note] will have to make also concessions and definitely one of the biggest concessions will be on the right of return,” and referring to this right of the Palestinian refugees and their ancestors, “we can talk about compensation, we can talk about other arrangement,” and that, in this sense, Israel has to negotiate with other members of the Arab League too.

The Israeli political leader tackled other problems of this file too, outlining that each proposal made has its undeniable rationality, but also that most of the issue is already resolved, that “we still have to do a fine tuning for the remaining 15 percent of differences between us, but that’s why we are leaders” (the whole speech is available on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLx9frBtuWs).

The audience, members of the Norwegian association and of EAI alike, appreciated the presentation’s open and visionary character. The summit in Oslo consecrated in the European public opinion the presence of a strong organisation with a voice that is ever more listened to and that takes on, in a visionary and optimistic manner, a complex mission but one that has to be carried out for the benefit of all. The next EAI summit will take place in Romania in 2017.

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