EU threatens punitive measures over Israeli annexation plans

E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell is reportedly pushing to penalize Jerusalem if it moves ahead with plans to apply Israeli law to parts of Judea and Samaria.

By Ariel Kahana, Israel Hayom via JNS

The European Union’s Foreign Affairs Commission is reportedly debating punitive measures against Israel should it push forward with its plans to annex parts of Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley in accordance with the Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan.

Sources familiar with the initiative told Israel Hayom that European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell is the one pushing for sanctions. Borrell, a Spanish diplomat, is known for his animosity toward Israel. This attitude is currently offset by the positive sentiment expressed towards Israel by Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen, a German diplomat and the sitting president of the European Commission.

The European Union’s charter states that all major foreign policy decisions can be made only by a consensus among the bloc’s 27 member states. It is therefore believed that Israel’s allies in the European Union—Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic—will block any major punitive action Borrell may try to promote.

Currently, Sweden, Ireland and Luxembourg are pushing for the harshest response, namely suspending the E.U.-Israel Association Agreement, which regulates relations between the two.

Another potential measure being considered is the exclusion of Israel from Horizon Europe, an ambitious E.U. research and innovation framework slated to run between 2021 and 2027. The program “aims to strengthen the E.U.’s scientific and technological bases, boost Europe’s innovation capacity, competitiveness and jobs and to deliver on citizens’ priorities and sustain socio-economic model and values,” according to its website.

A third scenario may see the European Union pull out of the open skies agreement with Israel, which it has yet to ratify.

Each of these scenarios entail a significant economic impact on Israel.

The E.U.’s foreign ministers are expected to debate the issue in their next meeting, scheduled for Thursday, though it is unlikely a decision will be made at that time, as the session will convene a mere day after the new Israeli government is to be sworn in.

Over the weekend, a Palestinian NGO called on Borrell to impose sanctions on Israel over its plans to annex the large settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria, calling the move illegal, the Palestinian news agency WAFA reported.

In a letter to Borrell, the European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine expressed “concerns” over Israel’s planned annexation of parts of Judea and Samaria that P.A. seeks to maintain as part of a future state, calling the move “part of the ongoing ethnic cleansing, apartheid and colonization” pursued by Israel.

The ECCP’s letter said that to confront “Israel’s unilateral land grab and annexation, immediate actions must to be taken, including sanctions and … [other] concrete measures.”

Meanwhile, the Israeli Foreign Ministry summoned E.U. Ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret last week for clarifications following the publication of a memo suggesting that groups supporting, identifying or affiliated with terrorist organizations could receive European Union funding.

“The Union’s policy on financing terrorist organizations is a letter of endorsement for incitement, support and involvement in terrorism,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The E.U. Mission in Israel said in response that “the E.U. opposes any incitement to violence or hatred. The allegations that the E.U. supports terrorism are unfounded and unacceptable, and we strongly oppose any such statement.”

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.