German foreign minister’s comments suggest EU retaliation to sovereignty move unlikely

Heiko Maas insists that annexation would break international law but stands strong against Iran in meetings with Netanyahu, Gantz and Ashkenazi.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Germany’s foreign minister told Israel’s top leaders Wednesday that the EU is seriously considering punishing Israel if it goes ahead with its plan to declare sovereignty over 30 percent of Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley next month. But he says he shares Jerusalem’s concerns regarding Iran.

In personal meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minster Benny Gantz, and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, Heiko Maas said that although his country has a “special” relationship with Israel, Berlin agrees with the majority of the European continent that Israel would be breaking the law if it applied sovereignty.

“I will continue to … explain our serious and honest worries as a very special friend of Israel about the possible consequences of such a move,” he said during a press conference with Ashkenazi.

“We share these views with our European partners, and we are of the view that annexation does not go together with international law…. We support a two-state solution arrived at through negotiations – and annexation may thwart this.”

Maas specified that he was in Jerusalem to listen to Israel’s side and that no concrete punitive measures were brought up in his discussions.

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“I did not mention any price Israel would pay for annexation,” he said. “As a friend of Israel, I’m here to get information.”

All 27 member states of the European Union must agree on sanctions for the bloc to act as a whole. Since Israel has already received support for its position from countries such as Hungary and Austria, an EU-wide retaliation may not be possible.

With that possibly in mind, Maas said that individual states could theoretically downgrade trade relations with Israel or formally recognize a Palestinian state that the Palestinian Authority has threatened to declare if Israel applies sovereignty.

Israel has always officially maintained that its rights to Judea and Samaria are anchored in international law, as the territory was part of the British Mandate for Palestine and as such was legally designated as part of the Jewish homeland in the San Remo Conference of 1920. All the resolutions of that conference were adopted by the League of Nations and then its replacement body – the United Nations.

On a more positive note, the foreign minister agreed with Israel about the danger of Iran’s recent surge in production of low-enriched uranium, as revealed last week by the IAEA. He said Germany is “disturbed” by the Islamic Republic’s violations of the nuclear accord and plans to invoke the deal’s Dispute Resolution Mechanism to resolve the standoff with the nuclear watchdog agency.

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All three Israeli leaders urged Maas to heighten economic pressure on Iran, in line with the American position, and renew the UN Security Council’s weapons embargo on the rogue state when the current embargo expires this winter. Germany is to assume the one-month presidency of the Security Council on July 1.