As the European Union Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen completed his near four-year term in the country he raised some eyebrows in his parting statements when he declared that the Jewish state could learn from the European Union in dealing with terrorism.
“We have a lot to learn from Israel, and Israel has a lot to learn from us. Israel could learn that fighting terrorism is an endeavor that requires the whole tool box of instruments,” he said.
Hot on the heels of the radical Islamic terror attacks in Barcelona where 15 were killed and 120 wounded, many Israelis and Europeans felt the speech was an affront. A French news site called it hutzpah, the Yiddish expression for “audacity” or “nerve.” Israel, with a long and excruciating history of being targeted by terror attacks, is considered a leader in combatting terrorism and is frequently called upon to educate European nations, which are now experiencing an onslaught of Islamic attacks.
Nevertheless, the ambassador insisted: “In Europe we have adopted a holistic approach to fighting terrorism. I think Israel could have an interest in studying our experience in holistic approaches.”
When challenged by reporters in the press conference if the holistic approach is working in Europe, Faaborg-Andersen responded that the European approach “hasn’t been a complete success, because a 100-percent hermetically sealed security against attacks is tough to achieve.”
“But you can definitely reduce the number of attacks. I think our approach is successful, but not entirely so,” he said. “It’s certainly better than not doing anything, and much better than five years ago.”
In his remarks, given at a meeting held in an upscale Tel Aviv hotel last week, the diplomat also said that Israel provides the Europeans with vital information on the Islamic State which proves useful for the most part. The information is absorbed into the national intelligence services of individual countries within the EU.
Faaborg-Andersen is leaving Israel at the end of this month to go back to his home country where he will be working for Denmark’s Foreign Ministry. In his speech the ambassador said the EU’s relationship with Israel was strong in terms of cooperation in anti-terrorism projects and is more developed than its relationship with any non-member country in the world. Faaborg-Andersen said this connection should get more exposure as Israelis in general don’t grasp the enormity of the relationship and how it is mutually beneficial.
“Europe is a friend of Israel, in spite of the problems we have. We are fundamentally very strong supporters and friends, and we have a track record to back it up,” he said. “I don’t want that message to be drowned out in disagreement over certain issues, like the Palestinians.”
According to his assessment, the things Israel and the EU don’t agree on is only 15 to 20 percent of the overall relationship, but it gets more of the focus.
Yet the EU representative — who co-authored the defunct Road Map for Peace in 2002 — said that Israel uses strong security effectively but they should work on de-radicalization through education and social services.
“We have to get the different bureaucracies with different organizational cultures to work together and exchange information and be one step ahead of the terrorists before they strike,” he said. “We have now reached the level of preparedness for countering that kind of terror better than in the past.”