The Likud Connection
Europe's Right-Wing Populists Find Allies in Israel
Broader relations began in earnest late last year. Strache, together with Vlaams Belang party boss Filip Dewinter, Kent Ekeroth from the Swedish Democrats and René Stadtkewitz, who founded a German Islam-critical party called "Freedom" last October, traveled to Israel in December. The visit was quickly reciprocated with a trip by Kara and others to Vienna at the very end of December. Other exchanges, including Kara's visit with Brinkmann in July, have followed.
The partners that the European right-wing has sought out in Israel are, perhaps not surprisingly, well to the right of center. Kara himself, a member of the minority Druze religious community who enjoys close ties with Netanyahu, opposed the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and is a loyal supporter of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Gershon Mesika, a settler leader in the West Bank, received the populist delegation in December. Hillel Weiss and David Ha'ivri, both proponents of "neo-Zionism," a movement which holds the belief that it is impossible to live in peace with Arabs, traveled to Germany last April for a conference hosted by the small, German right-wing populist movement Pro-NRW.
Their hope is that a pan-European platform will begin to emerge that values Israel as an important bastion in resisting the advancing tide of Islam. And they think, with the populist right making electoral gains across Europe in recent years, the smart bet is on Strache and Co.
'Europeans Cannot Sleep'
"The reasonable right parties have their roots at home. The Germans in Germany, the Swedes in Sweden and so on," says David Lasar, a member of the Vienna city government for the FPÖ. "I think that Israel is also a country that says this is our homeland and we can't open the borders and let everyone in as happened in Europe. That is a reason that Israel today has more trust in the right-wing parties in Europe than in the left-wing parties."
Lasar himself is Jewish and is one of the key players in ongoing efforts to tighten relations between Israel and the Europeans. And his view on Israel is one which would seem to be at odds with his party's past positions on the Middle East. Whereas Lasar is skeptical of peace negotiations which would require Israel to give up East Jerusalem or to withdraw from the settlements, the FPÖ has traditionally been allied with Arab leaders such as Moammar Gadhafi and remained skeptical of America's hard-line position on Iran.
That, though, Strache made clear, is changing. "There are areas where we Europeans cannot sleep, where we can't remain silent," says Strache. "Israel is in danger of being destroyed. Were that to happen, it would also result in Europe losing its foundation for existence."