Posted by: Tono | 04/02/2013

Trip to the Unites States

My trip to Washington DC last week was a bit different than past visits. This time I was invited as a speaker for the AIPAC conference to offer a European perspective on the de-legitimization of Israel. I shared and discussed my perspective with the co-panelists, Richard Prasquier and Daniel Taub and with a really eager audience.

I explained that in Europe, Israel does not have a bad image because of anti-Semitic sentiments. Of course, I do not deny the existence of this problem or other similar problems in Europe, but I doubt that it’s the real driver of Israel’s image problem. Actually, regarding the Middle East and North Africa region, Europeans are more focused on the rising inflow of migrants, an issue often used to fuel the rise of xenophobic populism.

Rather, as I stated at the AIPAC conference, Israel should reach out to Europe in order to better explain its point of view. Europeans get very limited information about Israel if compared to Americans (a night to day comparison). The same holds for European politicians. For example, there is no AIPAC-like organization in Brussels to offer information to European parliamentarians and decision-makers. And sometimes when European politicians and parties – like the EPP – try to reach out to Israel, the response is usually lukewarm. Bottom line: Israel should not put all its eggs in one basket (Washington).

In addition to AIPAC, I had several interesting meetings in Capitol Hill, building new bridges for the EPP and strengthening the existing ones. I met for the first time with Congressman Dana Rohrabacher. I had also an excellent meeting with Republican Congressmen Mario Diaz-Balart and Iliana Ros-Lietenen, of course being main topic  Cuba but also the situation in Venezuela, North Africa, Middle East and the economic crisis in Europe. I also met with our partners for the last 8 years, the International Republican Institute.

Finally, I visited the headquarters of the RNC and had a great meeting with Chairman Reince Priebus, where I briefed him on EPP’s preparations for the 2014 elections, in view of the nomination of presidential candidates by the European political parties. I explained him that these elections will have for the first time a presidential character, but they will not be able to match (at least not this time) the US presidential elections. Yet, slowly but surely, we’re moving there: the EPP will run a presidential campaign, including presidential debates.