27th Feb 2024

Czechs and Hungary still delay EU's Israeli-settler blacklist

  • Czech foreign minister Jan Lipavsky (left, with back to camera), with Israeli ambassador to the EU Haim Regev (c) and Israel's foreign minister Israel Katz (r) in Brussels in January (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)
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The Czech republic and Hungary are still delaying an EU blacklist of violent Israeli settlers, but their vetoes look ready to snap under growing pressure.

Czech and Hungarian diplomats told their 25 EU colleagues at a meeting in Brussels on Thursday (8 February) they did not want to discuss the settler issue at this point, diplomatic sources said.

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But the Czechs have now publicly stated that their sole objection was a procedural one — that the EU shouldn't blacklist any "terrorists" from Palestinian group Hamas at the same time, in case this implied both were equally bad.

The Czech government came under pressure to back down in a public petition by leading Czech personalities on Tuesday.

And the Czech foreign minister, Jan Lipavský, as well as his Czech Pirate Party in the ruling coalition, hold anti-settler views, putting internal pressure on the government, despite its track record of vetoing EU criticism of Israel in pre-Gaza war times.

The Czech position meant the EU could get Prague on board by taking action against settlers and Hamas in separate legal decisions at separate times.

The Hungarian veto is based on assertions, made by Hungarian foreign minister Péter Szijjártó, the EU-settler move would enflame tensions in the Middle East and antisemitism in Europe.

"I would consider it a bad decision to sanction Israeli settlers right now," he said in New York on Wednesday.

Hungary also has a long record of vetoing EU condemnations of Israel.

But Hungarian leader Viktor Orbán's veto on Ukraine aid was broken by EU leaders last week, making him look more fragile than ever.

His veto on Sweden's entry into Nato is expected to snap in the next two weeks under unprecedented US pressure.

This could include blacklisting top Orbán officials on human-rights grounds and suspending Hungary's US visa-waiver, said senior US Democratic Party senator Ben Cardin last week.

Meanwhile, Germany, also a staunch Israeli ally in pre-Gaza war times, has dropped any objections to going ahead against violent settlers, EU diplomats said.

Belgium, France, and the Netherlands have led the EU push, proposing 12 Israeli names.

The blacklist is meant to cool violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank in case of a Palestinian uprising there on top of the Gaza war.

It is also meant to chill Israeli settlement-expansion, amid EU and US efforts to revive the two-state solution after the Gaza war ends.

"Under no circumstances can there be forced displacement of Palestinians, neither out of Gaza nor out of the West Bank," said French foreign minister Stéphane Séjourné in Jerusalem on Monday after meeting Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The US imposed a travel ban and asset freeze on four extremist Israeli settlers last Thursday, giving a clue of what kind of people might be on the draft EU list.

These were David Chai Chasdai, Einan Tanjil, Shalom Zicherman, and Yinon Levi.

Chasdai led a riot that caused a Palestinian man's death, the State Department said. Tanjil attacked people with "stones and clubs". Zicherman broke windows of passing vehicles. Levi burned Palestinian fields.

Israeli banks froze their accounts, in order to minimise exposure to US non-compliance, promoting Israeli outrage.

"We thought it's not going to affect us because we don't have American citizenship, but then the bank called," Levi's wife, Sapir Levi, told US broadcaster ABC on Thursday.

"We have a joint bank account and we have savings for the children. We need to pay for school, to buy clothes for the children and we can't do anything right now, it's all frozen," she said.

EU asset-freezes do not have extra-territorial effects, if Europe was to overcome the Czech and Hungarian objections in the end.

EU commission silent on Israeli evidence into UNRWA

Asked if they had received any evidence from the Israelis, the European Commission skirted the question. Instead, they said it is up to Israel to communicate if and with whom they shared the evidence.


Only Palestinians paying thousands of dollars leave Gaza

Despite the high risk of dying from war, starvation or disease, Gazans are still not allowed to enter Egypt. Except those who bribe the authorities. And the EU mission EUBAM Rafah cannot be deployed due to security reasons.

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