Thursday

5th Aug 2021

Opinion

Israel's annexation? - the EU's options

  • Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu will execute his election promise at the earliest on 1 July. The EU then faces a crucial choice: use some of the legal tools it has to sanction Israel - or admit its complicity when annexation happens (Photo: Northern Lights 119)

We might be in the middle of one of the most detrimental periods in the history of Israel and Palestine.

Yet the decade long lack of action of the EU risks to definitively place Europe on the wrong side of history.

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It is time the EU stands up for its own laws and values and in practice shows what sanctions Israel can expect when the annexation of Palestine happens.

Because, regrettably, it is no longer a matter of if, but when Israel will begin to annex big parts of Palestine including Jordan Valley and all its 131 settlements.

Despite international condemnation, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu will execute his election promise at the earliest on 1 July and against this backdrop, the EU faces a crucial choice in pursuit of a two state solution: to use some of all the legal tools it has to sanction Israel - or admit its complicity when annexation happens.

Luckily, the EU has several legal tools at hand.

First of all, EU is Israel's number one trading partner covering more than one-third of Israel's foreign trade (including the UK) and anything the EU does to this will have an effect on Israeli activities.

The obligation for differentiation between products from Israel and its settlements is enshrined in UN Security Council Resolution 2334 and the EU should therefore stop all communication with the settlements, notably on trade, EU assistance programmes and culture.

Israeli settlers enjoy visa-free access to EU while their Palestinian neighbours must apply for visa. Changing this will be a big blow for Israelis and affect Netanyahu's popularity.

Israel also has access to the world's largest research funding platform the Horizon programme.

Estimates show that Israel benefit €140m net 2013-2020 on this and terminating this partnership as well as the Erasmus+ student exchange will be detrimental to the important Israeli tech industry as well as research and science.

This should be halted until steps towards a two-state solution happens.

The EU should furthermore consider cutting off diplomatic relations - as it has done with Russia, Venezuela and Turkey.

Finally, it is time for member states to recognise Palestine within the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as the shared capital.

If states do not do it now they will most likely not get the opportunity again. Recognition would send a strong signal of support to the Palestinians.

Several of these initiatives pooled together will have some effect on Netanyahu but they will also position the EU on the right side of history: as those who stood up for international law as well as its own values.

If words without action continues, the EU will be complicit in creating a one-state where Jewish people are citizens and Palestinian people subjects.

Such state will be an apartheid state and a disaster for both people.

Such state can never be Jewish and democratic and safe and Europe have to save its own formula and do everything it can to promote a peaceful two-state solution and avoid what will likely be a decade long struggle for equal rights for the Palestinians.

This instability is not only a threat to Israeli and Palestinian security; it is also dangerous for Europe.

Injustice somewhere is a threat to justice anywhere and many will be observing this as a test for whether the EU is capable of acting as a key player on the international arena by promoting its values and standing up for rule of law.

A domino effect will be injurious to the security and stability of Europe and Palestine then constitutes a test of the geopolitical power of the EU.

Although EU still does not have its own territorial defence it does have a gun loaded with diplomatic and trade-related ammunition, ready to use.

The EU already has sanctions on more than 30 countries and on some 1,200 persons - it is time the EU pulls the trigger against Israeli occupation before it turns into annexation and 'acts accordingly' - not just in words but also in action.

Author bio

Margrete Auken is a Danish MEP for for the Greens and vice-chair of the delegation for relations with Palestine.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Interview

Erekat: What EU should tell Pompeo on Israel

Foreign ministers should tell US secretary of state on Monday that Israeli annexation means EU sanctions on Israel and a rift with the US, Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian diplomat, said.

EU confused on Israel, as annexation looms

"You can divide a municipality, but you can't divide a mayor in two," an EU official said, in another European muddle on Israel at a critical time.

Luxembourg takes EU lead on Palestine recognition

Luxembourg has stepped up efforts to coordinate an EU reaction to the risk Israel will annex Palestinian territories - but European recognition of Palestine remains a dim prospect.

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This is a critical moment. The UAE-Israel agreement, welcomed by the European Union, represents a severe blow to the Arab Peace Initiative, writes the diplomatic affairs' adviser for Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.

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