Does Benjamin Netanyahu’s imminent return as Israel’s prime minister fill the hearts of European Union representatives with dread? It would be naive to think so.

Cappuccino-sipping sophisticates in Brussels would no doubt prefer if the new Israeli coalition did not include a gun-toting fascist like Itamar Ben-Gvir and if the prospect of formally annexing settlement blocs in the West Bank was removed from the agenda. Yet the fact remains that Netanyahu was in power for most of the past 13 years. During that time, the EU actually took important steps to strengthen its cooperation with Israel.

The cooperation was stepped up in dirty and sneaky ways, even as newspaper headlines gave the impression that the EU and Israel were constantly at loggerheads. Documents released following a freedom of information request show that delegations from Israel’s police visited Europol, the EU’s “crime-fighting” agency, on at least five occasions between 2017 and 2021. At least two of those delegations were led by Roni Alsheikh, then Israel’s police commissioner.

Alsheikh headed a police force that sided openly with Jewish extremists intent on destroying Islamic holy sites in occupied East Jerusalem. In tandem with Netanyahu, Alsheikh rushed to brand Palestinians killed by officers under his command as “terrorists.” There is ample evidence that Alsheikh pursued a strategy of smearing the dead before their bodies had gone cold. When the police attacked Umm al-Hiran, a Palestinian community living inside Israel, and killed Yaqoub Abu al-Qiyan as he tried to drive out of that village in January 2017, Alsheikh lied by alleging that the victim had attacked the police. His lies remained the official version of events, even when human rights monitors could prove that they were lies. The EU rewarded him for his lies.

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