A majority of Israelis view the European Union as adversarial rather than friendly toward Israel, according to a new poll commissioned by a foreign policy think tank published Monday.
Fifty-five percent of respondents said they consider the EU “more of a foe,” while only 18% view it as “more of a friend.” Twenty-seven percent had no opinion on the matter.
Among Jewish Israelis polled, the gap is even wider: 61% have a negative view of the 28-member union, while only 16% said they consider it a friendly entity. Arab Israelis are split on the question: 27% of respondents said the EU was “more of a friend” and 25% said it was “more of a foe.” Nearly half had no opinion.
The poll was commissioned by Mitvim – The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies, a left-leaning think tank based in Ramat Gan. It was carried out last month by the Rafi Smith Institute, which said it used a representative sample of Israel’s adult population (700 men and women, Jews and Arabs).
“The survey points to disturbing trends regarding neighboring regions,” said Nimrod Goren, the head of Mitvim. “Most of the public views the EU as an adversary of Israel and not as a friend, despite it being a major political, economic, civil and security partner of Israel.”
Less than a quarter of respondents to the Mitvim poll (23%) said Israel belongs more to Europe, while 28% said Israel belongs more to the Middle East, and 22% said the country belongs to the Mediterranean Basin.
Asked which foreign policy issue Israel should prioritize, respondents most often replied with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and developing ties with moderate Arab states ranking first (each 25%), followed by fighting delegitimization and boycotts of Israel (22%) and improving relations with Russia (20%).
EU-Israel relations have long been fraught with tensions, as Brussels and Jerusalem disagree over the Iranian nuclear deal, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and West Bank settlements, and several other topics.
According to the survey, Israelis considers Russia the “most important country” after the US, followed by Germany, Great Britain, China, France, and Egypt.
A large majority (70%) of Israelis think that, within the EU, Israel should develop closer ties with Great Britain, France and Germany. Only 7% preferred their government seek improve relations with the Visegrad group, which includes Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia.
Nearly 70 percent of respondents believe that “regional cooperation between Israel and other countries in the Middle East” is possible, while 19% believe it is not possible.
Asked which Arab country they would most like to visit if it had “normal” relations with Israel, a plurality of 41% said they had no interest in visiting any Arab country.