Brussels, April 26th, 2023 – It is political ideology and, to a lesser extent, nationality that determine how a particular Member of the European Parliament will cast his vote on issues related to Israel. This is one of the takeaways in a first ever study on the support for Israel among the national parties represented in the European Parliament. The study was commissioned by the European Coalition for Israel and conducted by Brussels based research platform EU-Matrix. The survey is based on the voting records of 71 items related to Israel from 2019 to 2022. These items include votes on the EU-Israel Association Council, funding of Palestinian textbooks, EU’s aviation agreement with Israel etc.
“As the voting records in the European Council, where the EU Foreign Ministers meet and make formal decisions in relation to Israel, are not open to the public, the only way to measure how parties and nations relate to Israel is to look at the voting records in the European Parliament which is the only directly elected political body in the European Union,” ECI Founding Director Tomas Sandell explains.
The results, which were presented in the European Parliament on Tuesday night, on the eve of Israel’s 75th Independence Day, do not come as a surprise to anyone who has studied EU-Israel relations over the years.
The biggest support for Israel can be found among parties on the right of the centre in the European Parliament. The most pro-Israel of all political groups is the European Conservatives and Reformists group (ECR), followed by Identity and Democracy (ID), the European People’s Party (EPP) and the liberal Renew group. The further one gets to the political left the more critical are the attitudes towards Israel with Spanish government coalition partner Podemos scoring the lowest of all parties, that is 0 percent (!) in support for Israel of the 71 votes which were analysed. Three of the four least supportive parties in the European Parliament are Spanish left-wing parties.
“This result is a combination of two factors,” Sandell explains. As a typical populist left-wing party Podemos is highly critical of Israel. Combined with the fact that it originates from Spain, which has a history of anti-Israel rhetoric, it is not a surprise that it ends up last on the list. Still, looking at individual countries it is not Spain but rather Ireland which is the least supportive of Israel.
The same logic is true for the parties which score the highest support for Israel. The Civic Democratic Party from Czech Republic does not only represent a long-held tradition of Czech support for Israel, but this is amplified by the fact that the party is politically situated on the right.
“The idea with the study is not to explain why the parties vote in a particular way but simply to present hard facts,” Sandell clarifies. Still, the survey gives interesting reading for all national constituencies. While Ireland ends up last on the list on its support for Israel, followed by Spain, support for Israel is more common in the new EU member states. Among the four largest EU member states, Italy and Poland score some of the highest points in support for Israel, which is also symptomatic for the fact that they are currently governed by the right-wing parties.
The ranking, which is planned to be released annually, comes only one year ahead of the next European Parliament elections.
“Despite its limitations, the matrix is an important first step to a more informed debate about EU-Israel relations,” Sandell explains and concludes, “It is a right of the EU-citizens to know how their national parties vote on issues related to Israel. This does not only contribute to a better and more informative debate, but it also strengthens EU participatory democracy.”