The Brussels-based American Jewish Committee (AJC) Transatlantic Institute announced on Tuesday an inter-parliamentary Transatlantic Friends of Israel (TFI) group in the European Union’s parliament.
The Transatlantic Institute said the goal of the group is to strengthen “the trilateral partnership between the US, Israel and Europe.”
A packed audience of some 60 people, including 25 MEPs from 13 countries, representing four of the five major political groups, were present at the opening of the group.
“The impressive turn-out at this morning’s launch of the ‘Transatlantic Friends of Israel’ is a powerful message to the EU to strengthen and deepen this vital trilateral partnership,” said Daniel Schwammenthal, director of the AJC Transatlantic Institute. He added that “Israel ought to be understood as an integral part of the West which is less a geographical concept than a community of shared values and interests. With its first-class security services, cutting-edge high-tech sector, and thriving knowledge-based economy, Europe and the US couldn’t ask for a better partner to tackle today’s challenges, from rising extremism and terrorism to radical regimes and nuclear proliferation.”
The organization is chaired by Austrian MEP Lukas Mandl.
“I consider the transatlantic alliance with Israel – a global leader in technology, defense and innovation – one of the most important issues of our time,” he said. “This trilateral partnership, based on shared Western values, interests, and history, is crucial for our collective security and prosperity. That’s why we have created the ‘Transatlantic Friends of Israel’ as a key inter-parliamentary group to help advance this critical work.”
A TFI vice chair – Lithuanian lawmaker Petras Auštrevičius – said that “It’s astonishing that the EU has in recent months held association councils with Egypt, Morocco and other Arab countries, but not with Israel, the Middle East’s only liberal democracy. This unfair treatment hurts not just Israeli but also European interests.”
Dietmar Köster – an MEP from the German Social Democratic Party – said: “Despite current political differences, the allegiance between North America, Europe and Israel runs deep due to the shared values of a social democracy, freedom and an open society based on the rule of law.”
Aharon Leshno-Yaar, Israel’s ambassador to the EU and NATO, and Christina Tomlinson, the chargé d’affairs of the US Mission to the EU, delivered talks. US Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-New York) sent written statements to support the trans-Atlantic legislative group.
Leshno-Yaar said: “Europe, the US and Israel are challenged by forces that are hostile to our values and way of life. We can and we must work together, to find common solutions to those challenges.”
Christina Tomlinson – representing US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland – said: “To our friends from the European Parliament who are here today, your presence is remarkable. That just a few days after taking office you would take the time and make the commitment to be here speaks volumes about your dedication to the transatlantic relationship and your willingness to have an open and mutually beneficial relationship with Israel.
“Today, individual liberty, democracy, and national sovereignty are the cornerstones of American, European and Israeli societies. We look forward to working with the ‘Transatlantic Friends of Israel’ and our friends and partners in the EU to continue to foster these ideals on both sides of the Atlantic,” Tomlinson added.
Sen. Rubio said that “Given Israel’s military and technological prowess, closer strategic relations have significantly advanced American national security interests and values, and also ought to be as much in Europe’s interests as in Israel’s.”
Congresswoman Lowey said: “I was delighted to learn about AJC’s new ‘Transatlantic Friends of Israel’ inter-parliamentary friendship group. With a clear set of common interests and values, this trilateral project could not have come soon enough. As this group continues to grow and expand, I look forward to working together to pursue our agenda of partnership and friendship.”
Benjamin Weinthal is a European correspondent at The Jerusalem Post and a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.