Israel and the European Union’s Normative Identity: Challenges of Diverging Historical Narratives

University essay from Lunds universitet/Europastudier

Abstract: This thesis explores the Israeli-EU relations since 2015 when the Israeli government has decided to cooperate further with Eurosceptic governments in the EU to undermine EU policies. This thesis aims to implement historical culture theory to make sense of the recent developments in the Israeli-EU relations and in what manner they challenge the EU’s narrative as a normative power. Through a qualitative content analysis of speeches held by Benjamin Netanyahu, Federica Mogherini, and Donald Tusk, the leaders of Israel and the EU at that time frame, the historical and normative narratives of the EU and Israel were extracted. The findings show that Netanyahu and EU leaders use history to legitimize either their policies or set of norms. Additionally, the historical culture of Israel had shifted and diverged from the EU consensus and thereby shares greater similarities with that of Eurosceptic governments in the EU, such as the Visegrád group. The thesis concludes that the transformations in the Israeli historical culture led to the formation of Netanyahu’s alliance with Eurosceptic governments, but it did not undermine the EU’s normative identity in the international community. Although the EU’s normative power did not result in the restart of the Middle Eastern Peace Process, it succeeded in exerting some of its values to Netanyahu’s rhetoric and the EU’s bilateral agreements with Israel. While the Israeli-EU relations have suffered on a pollical level, the EU and Israel continue to have close bilateral relations as they hold to their respective historical and normative narratives.

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