EU Commission President: ‘There Is No Europe Without European Jews’

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett Meets with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Photo courtesy of Haim Zach (Israeli GPO)

Europe and Israel have shared values and shared history, but their connection is far deeper than just what they share, according to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Indeed, Europe wouldn’t be what it is today if not for the Jews.

“As long as I can think, I was convinced of two very simple facts. First, there is no Europe without European Jews. And second, Europe and Israel are bound to be friends and allies. Because the history of Europe is the history of the Jewish people,” von der Leyen said while visiting Israel’s Ben Gurion University on Tuesday.

Von der Leyen went on to list Franz Kafka, Sigmund Freud, Simone Veil, and Hannah Arendt as examples of historic Jewish Europeans, and further said that Europe is “the values of the Talmud, the Jewish sense of personal responsibility, of justice and of solidarity.”

In her speech, which was published to the European Union website, von der Leyen even took a personal note in recognizing how former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir’s leadership inspired her as a young girl. Current Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called the European’s supportive comments “powerful.”

In addition to saying he could “not agree more” with von der Leyen’s belief that Europe and Israel are bound to be friends, Bennett praised the European Commission President as well.

“The Jewish people in Europe share a long history. Today we can look forward knowing that Europe is in the hands of leaders such as yourself who understand the weight and the responsibility and take firm action in the face of antisemitism,” said Bennett in comments with von der Leyen published by his office.

The two officials not only reflected on the past, but also on the future—including the war in Ukraine and Iran. In von der Leyen’s comments with Bennett, which were separately published to the EU website, she noted the global food supply endangered by the Ukrainen conflict and Israel’s role in helping to protect it on a long-term basis. Noting that 20 million tons of grain are “trapped” in Ukraine and Europe’s efforts to help export the resource and increasing production of the vital foodsource, von der Leyen said they also need to “look further to the mid and long term. And here, Israel can play a tremendously important role. Because you have a unique expertise in innovative, resource-efficient agriculture.”

She continued to note that the founders of Israel “have basically made crops spring up from the driest of deserts. You made the desert bloom. Today, the world desperately needs these technologies to really have a shift what food supply and food security is concerned.”

Bennett acknowledged the food danger as well, with both leaders seeing the threat to Middle East in particular.

“With the ongoing and devastating war in Ukraine come vast global implications. It’s time for the international community to work together,” said Bennett. We, even in our region we’re seeing a potential for great famine and distress that can have profound implications for the stability and welfare of people, which is why today both of us will be discussing ways where the EU and Israel can cooperate on food security, energy and more.”

In addition to Ukraine, Bennett also highlighted a threat closer to home: Iran.

After thanking EU leaders for censuring Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency due to Iran’s failure to provide complete explanations around traces of uranium in undeclared sites, Bennett turned to Iran’s ongoing malignant actions.  

“If hiding information wasn’t enough, the Iranian regime also threatened to retaliate if the IAEA were to vote against them,” noted Bennett. “And when the IAEA indeed voted against Iran—Iran responded by turning off 27 surveillance cameras from nuclear sites across the country. Essentially, cutting off the international community’s ability to see what Iran is doing. This is a very dangerous move.”

Bennett then looked to Europe and beyond to help provide the solution. “Iran’s belligerent actions should be a wake-up call for the international community and should be met with clear and strong consequences—increased pressure and holding Iran accountable at the UN Security Council. The only way for Iran to be stopped is if we act and stop them.”

While threats from Iran and Russia continue to loom, Bennett also chose to highlight an international relationship heading in the right direction.

Said the Israeli leader, “I’m happy to say that today Israel and Europe are on a very strong and positive trajectory.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, June 16, 2022) 

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