Friends of Israel Lose Strength in European Parliament Elections
Menu JTA Search

Friends of Israel Lose Strength in European Parliament Elections

Download PDF for this date

Pink and green, with a swath of black, was how one commentator here described the complexion of the European Parliament after Sunday’s elections.

Socialists, environmentalists and smaller leftist parties captured a working majority of 270 seats in the 518-member parliament, which sits in Strasbourg, France, as the European Community’s legislative body.

The same bloc had 233 seats in the outgoing parliament.

Extreme right-wing parties in France and West Germany made unexpectedly strong showings in the elections, which are held every five years.

The overall outcome was disturbing to supporters of Israel.

The Socialists and Greens, who will comprise the largest bloc, have been consistently sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.

The center-right coalition they displaced was basically pro-Israel, despite reservations many of their deputies have about Israel’s handling of the Palestinian uprising.

Avi Primor, Israel’s ambassador to Belgium and liaison with the Brussels-based European Community, did not conceal his disappointment with the results.

“We will need to put in more energy and work, more imagination and good will, if we are to preserve our formerly cordial relations with the new chamber,” he told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on Monday.

Some of Israel’s staunchest friends suffered devastating setbacks.


One of the best known, Simone Veil of France, an Auschwitz survivor, headed a conservative, center-right bloc. It garnered only 8.41 percent of the vote, well short of the 10 percent she had said was “the minimum needed to make her party credible.”

Veil, a former president of the European Parliament, will have considerably less influence than she wielded in the past.

British Conservatives, who generally back Israel, also lost influence. Their representation was reduced from 45 to 31 seats.

In addition, Lord Henry Plumb of Britain, a good friend of Israel, did not seek re-election as president of the parliament. He will probably be replaced by a Spanish Socialist, whose party remains highly critical of Israel’s policies.

In Italy, the Social Democrats, friendlier to Israel than the Socialists, lost votes, while Bettino Craxi’s Socialist Party gained about 5 percent over its 1984 showing.

In Belgium, veteran Minister Jean Goll, who is Jewish and a close friend of Israel, suffered a personal defeat. His small party of French-speaking liberals lost one of its three seats.

And the Vlaams Bloc, a fledgling extremist party of anti-immigrant Flemish nationalists, won a surprising 6.6 percent of the vote, up from 4.5 percent in 1984. The right-wing, which made particularly strong showings in Antwerp and Brussels, will now get to send one deputy to Strasbourg.

According to computer projections based on early results, Jean-Marie Le Pen’s extreme right-wing National Front emerged from the elections the third largest French party in the European Parliament.

Although Le Pen denies he is anti-Semitic, he has publicly denigrated the Holocaust. His party campaigns on a platform of ultranationalism and xenophobia, currently directed against Arab immigrants from Algeria.

The National Front won 11.73 percent of the vote and will have 10 deputies at the Strasbourg assembly, following the Socialists, with 23.61 percent and 22 deputies.

The center-right coalition headed by former President Valery Giscard d’Estaing, is the largest French party. It won 28.86 percent of the vote and will have 26 seats. The ecologist Green Party won 10.59 percent.


The most disturbing election result was in West Germany, where the Republican Party, headed by a former Waffen SS man, Franz Schoenhuber, surged into fourth place among German parties, with 7.1 percent of the vote. (See related story from Bonn.)

The Republicans, who did not exist when the last European Parliament was elected in 1984, will have six seats at Strasbourg.

The parliament dates from 1952, when the European Coal and Steel Community was founded. In 1979, its members first stood for election. Previously, they had been appointed by their respective national parliaments.

The European Parliament thereby gained political stature. The European Single Act in 1987 gave it a much more forceful role in E.C. affairs and enhanced its prestige.

Although real political power still resides with the Council of Ministers of the 12-nation community, the European Parliament may approve or reject any agreement with a foreign country.

The parliament also ratifies the admission of new states to the European Community, has the right to dismiss E.C. commissioners and must approve the budget and detailed spending.

West Germany, Britain, France and Italy each send 81 deputies to Strasbourg. Spain sends 60; the Netherlands, 25; Belgium, Greece and Portugal, 24 each; Denmark, 16; Ireland, 15; and Luxembourg, six.

Most deputies align themselves with political parties or blocs that reflect the political composition of the parliaments in their home countries.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund