Israel's elections and Dutch politics

Israel's elections and Dutch politics

22nd February 2009, Comments 0 comments

The Israeli electorate has spoken: regardless of who ends up forming a government, the country has swung to the right.

What effect will this have on the special relationship Israel has long enjoyed with the Netherlands?

The Netherlands has always been a loyal ally to Israel, but the violent incursion in Gaza caused some strains in that relationship, especially among Dutch parties on the left of the political spectrum. Now some here are concerned that Dutch support could further wane.

Eroding sympathy
Erik Meijer is a Dutch member of the European parliament for the Socialist Party.

"If a government is formed that ends up leading to new conflicts, or lets the current situation drag on, then the sympathy Israel traditionally enjoys here in the Netherlands certainly won't increase."

Mr Meijer's comments are a cause of concern for Hans van Baalen of the conservative VVD party. He sees support for Israel eroding among the left-wing Dutch parties.

"I think it's dangerous if Dutch support for Israel becomes an issue between the left and the right. I think it should stay a general question, support for Israel should be the same among all political parties."

A call to keep the special relationship in tact. But Mr van Baalen needn't worry - the swing to the right now taking place in Israel is reflected by a somewhat similar trend here in the Netherlands. No one represents that better than Geert Wilder's Freedom Party.

Something to learnFar-right Dutch deputy Geert Wilders, author of the anti-Islamic film "Fitna," holds a press conference on December 17, 2008 at the European Parliament in the northeastern French city of Strasbourg. AFP PHOTO/DOMINIQUE FAGET
Martin Bosma is member of parliament for the Freedom Party. He says the Netherlands can learn something from Israel.
"Many Dutch people will see that the Netherlands and Israel are in the same boot. It's just that it's happening earlier in Israel. They are the canary in the coalmine. Israel has problems with Islam that we're going to have as well."

The Freedom Party sees Israel as at the forefront of a conflict between the West and Islam. That is a minority view here in the Netherlands. But it is a growing minority, in this country, as well as in Israel.

The Freedom Party is the fifth largest party in the Dutch parliament, and is doing even better in recent polls. In the meantime, the far-right Yisrael Beitenu party of Avigdor Lieberman is now the third largest party in Israel, and may play the role of kingmaker.

In more ways than one, the Freedom Party wants to follow in Israel's footsteps.

John Tyler
Radio Netherlands



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