Christian Democrat and EU parliamentarian Alf Svensson recently attended a conference in Israel held by the “European Friends of Israel” (EFI) where he got a chance to learn more about the developments in Egypt and the political implications they will have for the region.
As Michael Oscarsson, Svensson’s fellow member of the Christian Democrats in Sweden stated, the aim of the EFI is to “strengthen the connections between Europe and Israel”. Oscarsson also attended the EFI conference in an effort to understand explore possible scenarios which may develop due to the still-ongoing situation in Egypt. In support of Israel, Oscarsson says that we have very much in common; he states; “the roots of our culture comes from the Jewish tradition as well as the Jewish-Christian values”.
In an interview with the Christian magazine Dagen, Svensson comments that in the conference he learned that, “Israel sees the dilemma for the Western regimes which have supported the dictator Mubarak”. He also reflects that “he has met those [in Israel] who are worried that there is no organized opposition in Egypt, other than the Muslim Brotherhood which could be put into power in the September elections”.
While the rest of the world is celebrating the possible democratic transformation in Egypt, it is true that Israel at this point looks at the situation with critical eyes and even with fear, something that is acknowledged by both Svensson and Oscarsson. Israel is located in a hostile neighborhood and has hostile relations with Hezbollah-dominated Lebanon, Syria and the Gaza Strip as well as an eminent threat from Iran. In fact, all these states are linked through Iranian influence in the region. The Swedish delegation also noted that Hezbollah managed to fire a rocket into Israel during their stay—emphasizing the never-ending hostilities towards the state of Israel. It is therefore natural that Israel sees that the overthrow of Mubarak, a leader who has managed to keep peace in the region for decades, might pose a large threat to the national security of the state.
During the three-day conference held by the EFI, some 450 parliamentarians met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Svensson and Oscarsson especially noted that Israel’s president Shimon Peres impressed them, as he showed support of the revolution in Egypt as Egyptians used Twitter and Facebook instead of grenades.
It is good to know that there are Swedish parliamentarians and members of the European parliament who take time to come and get to know the state of Israel and show their support. There is no doubt that the people of Israel support the Egyptian people’s efforts and hopes for the building of a fellow liberal democracy in the region. However, Israelis are wary of Islamist influence in Egypt, as Israel is already contending with Iranian-backed groups on two borders. The region has already seen two cases—both Iran and Gaza—where democratic elections brought in totalitarian rulers.It is important that influential politicians such as Alf Svensson have an understanding of the complex security aspects Israel constantly is dealing with, and how these effect the county’s political agenda. EFI’s vital efforts should be saluted for bridging understanding between the EU and Israel.