Foreign ministers representing member states of the EU on Friday will debate potential responses to Israel’s decision to annex parts of Judea and Samaria if that clause in the Likud-Kahol Lavan coalition agreement is implemented.
Despite the fact that the newly appointed EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, wants to wait and see what the new Israeli government will do, some of the member countries are exerting pressure to approve sanctions in advance as a means of deterrence. This can include denying Israel membership in trade agreements, grants or other collaborative ventures in various industries.
Sources close to the discussions told Haaretz that there is growing support among EU countries to slap sanctions that are meant to deter Israel from asserting sovereignty over any territory. Spain, France, Sweden, Ireland, Belgium and Luxembourg are all reportedly to be calling for sanctions even before a final decision is made.
The sources also said that when it comes to trade agreements, a unanimous agreement is not required by all the member states. This means that Israel won’t be able to rely on the veto of Israel’s EU allies like Hungary and the Czech Republic to rescue them from these types of decisions. Additionally, member states can enact their own independent protests 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 told Haaretz.
This translates into the EU enforcing a “carrot and stick” approach whereby the option of opening a dialogue between the new EU leadership and the new Israeli government will be a first resort but at the same time, relaying messages of economic threats in the event of an Israeli decision on unilateral annexation.
While speaking to journalists in Brussels on Monday, Peter Stano, the spokesman for EU external affairs, was asked by a reporter if there will be “some kind of sanctions” imposed on Israel as a response to annexation. Stano offered a rather vague response saying that the foreign ministers will discuss the situation in the Middle East on Friday during the meeting of the EU Council. He added that imposing sanctions “is up to the member states; at this stage, let’s not speculate.”