EU Countries Mull Slapping Sanctions on Israel to Deter West Bank Annexation

Foreign ministers of countries in the European Union on Friday will debate possible responses to moves by Israel to annex land in the West Bank, should this clause in the Likud-Kahol Lavan coalition agreement be implemented.

Although the recently appointed EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, is inclined to wait and see how the new Israeli government will act, several member countries have been exerting pressure to approve sanctions in advance as an act of deterrence. These could include denying Israel membership in trade agreements, special grants or cooperative ventures in various fields.

– Annexation isn’t the end of the world. Listen to Gideon Levy

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Sources familiar with the discussions told Haaretz that there is increasing support among EU states for sanctions intended to deter Israel from annexing any territory. France, Spain, Ireland, Sweden, Belgium and Luxembourg are all said to be calling for a tough line on the issue.

The sources added that some steps, like trade agreements, don’t require the unanimous agreement of all the member states; as a result, Israel won’t be able to count on the veto of friendly EU countries like Hungary or the Czech Republic. Moreover, member states can decide on their own independent protest moves against Israel.

“No one wants to reach a stage were EU-Israel ties are damaged for the long term, but they will be in the event of a unilateral annexation. If only because of the precedent it would set anywhere else,” a source said.

As a result, in Brussels they are trying a “carrot and stick” approach; on the one hand, the option of turning over a new leaf between the new EU leadership and the new Israeli government, with an open dialogue between the two sides, while on the other hand, clear messages about the expected severe damage to be done to future relations in the event of a unilateral annexation.

In a briefing for journalists in Brussels Monday, Peter Stano, the spokesman for EU external affairs, was asked whether there might be “some kind of sanctions” imposed on Israel in response to any annexation. Stano responded that the foreign ministers would discuss the situation in the Middle East on Friday at the meeting of the EU Council, and that imposing sanctions “is up to the member states; at this stage, let’s not speculate.”