Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and German Chancellor Angela Merkel address a news conference at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, February 2016. 
Fabrizio Bensch / REUTERS

Europe’s complex relationship with Israel is evolving again. The coming centenary of the Balfour Declaration—in which Britain expressed support for the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people—will serve as a reminder that the Zionist endeavor has always pressed against sensitive nerves in Europe. Deep divergences endure over Israel in European minds: some consider it an outpost of Western civilization and a justified expression of Jewish self-determination, others an embarrassing colonial hangover.

But Europe is changing, and so is Israel. On the one hand, the economic, security, and identity crisis in Europe is creating new incentives for cooperation with Israel, but on the other, Israel’s rightward shift is a source of increasing friction.  

In the period since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s election in 2009, figures on the Israeli center and left have tended to speak gloomily about the relationship. Netanyahu’s policies

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  • TOBY GREENE is an Israel Institute Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
  • JONATHAN RYNHOLD is Deputy Head of the Political Studies Department and a Senior Researchers at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University.
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