What Do the Danish Elections Mean for Israel?

Is something truly rotten for the Jewish state in Denmark? EU-Israel expert Dr. Tsilla Hershco explains the status quo.

Tova Dvorin ,

Denmark's Lars Lokke Rasmussen
Denmark's Lars Lokke Rasmussen

Danish opposition leader Lars Lokke Rasmussen's right-wing bloc emerged victorious in the general elections on Friday - but what does it mean for Israel? 

To gain perspective on the issue, Arutz Sheva spoke to Dr. Tsilla Hershco, specialist in EU-Israel relations and EU affairs at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA). 

"In my opinion, it won't change anything," Dr. Hershco began, explaining that the EU is "very important to Denmark and to the newly-elected Prime Minister." 

The problem for Israel and individual EU countries, she explained, is that the policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the sole uniting issue between a multitude of nations; deviating from that policy for one particular country is risky. 

"The EU are divided over many, many issues - almost all the issues," she said. "Now, they have problems - very very serious problems, like the crisis with Russia, which is now deteriorating [...] but I think they are very obsessive with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and it's the major crisis, the major conflict in the world." 

"I think it is because it is the only issue which unites them," she added. 

As such, this idea of a united front for the EU inherently prevents a change in the status quo vis-a-vis Israel, she noted. 

The obsession with 'settlements'

Dr. Hershco also reflected on the state of Denmark-Israel relations until now.

The first issue: condemnation of "settlements," i.e. Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria - which, too, is to the point of obsession, as she put it. But this is not even the primary issue. 

"In my opinion, it [i.e. 'settlements'] is not the main issue because it has to be discussed during peace negotiations," Dr. Hershco reflected. "The main issue for the EU is the lack of motivation for the Palestinian Authority to reach an agreement, particularly regarding the Palestinian refugees."

Specifically regarding Denmark, she noted that the Danish representative to the UN voted for the PA to become an Observer State during the November 29, 2012 vote over the issue.

In doing so, she said, Copenhagen recognized that the PA had consolidated its policies to show that "peace can only be achieved by dialogue" - support for a one-sided Palestinian initiative which Dr. Hershco labeled as "counterproductive." This way, she said, the PA is capable of resting on its laurels without making any significant progress - but with international support. 

Dr. Hershco gave several examples. 

For one, she said, the upcoming visit of French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius is designed to push an 18-month deadline for peace talks, at the end of which France will recognize the PA as a "Palestinian state." 

"What incentive do they [the PA] have to conduct any dialogue with Israel, if they know that at the end of the deadline they will achieve recognition?" she asked. 

Double standards

Denmark, too, has been particularly harsh on Israel, and she cited Danish bank's boycott of Bank Hapoalim for doing business in Judea and Samaria and the arrest warrant issued for former Israel Security Agency (ISA or Shin Bet) head Carmi Gillon for attending a Jewish Film Festival where "The Gatekeepers" was being shown in January 2014. 

Moreover, the Danish ambassador to Israel, Jesper Vahr, "admitted that there was a double standard" regarding Israel in December 2014, she noted. He even added that “Israel should insist that we discriminate, that we apply double standards. This is because you are one of us.” 

"This is ridiculous," she said, "because Israel is in the midst of the Middle Eastern jungle [...] and Israel is attacked. So what do they want us to do? We do keep moral standards, but there is something very unrealistic in their attitude." 

However, she did note one recent success: in May, ads calling to boycott Israel were pulled from Copenhagen buses due to Israeli and Jewish pressure - "which shows that things can be done" to improve the situation. 

"We can do things against BDS," she said. 

Despite everything, Dr. Hershco insisted that Denmark is not anti-Semitic - citing, first and foremost, the fact that Denmark rescued thousands of Jews from the Nazis during the Holocaust. 

About 7,000 Jews live in Denmark, and are very well-integrated into Danish society.

Citing the recent terror attack in February on a Copenhagen synagogue, she noted that anti-Semitic violence originates from radical Muslim groups - but added that Jews and Muslims have reasonably good interfaith relations in Denmark. 

However, that - and the elections - may not affect anti-Semitic violence there, she said, because a victory for the far-right means both a probable reduction in immigration on the one hand, but an increase in the power of traditionally anti-Semitic violence on the other.