France is urging its European Union partners to consider threatening Israel with a tough response if it goes ahead with the annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank, three EU diplomats said.
Belgium, Ireland, and Luxembourg also want to discuss the possibility of punitive economic measures during a foreign ministers’ meeting on Friday, the diplomats told Reuters, though all member states would have to agree to any collective action.
On April 20, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main rival Benny Gantz signed a coalition agreement that includes a clause to advance plans to annex parts of the West Bank, including Israeli settlements, starting on July 1.
But Palestinians have expressed outrage at Israel’s plans to cement its hold further on land it seized in the 1967 Middle East war, a territory they are seeking for a state.
The EU diplomats did not give details on what punitive measures EU member states might consider to try to dissuade Israel from making the move.
In terms of procedure, EU governments would need to ask the Commission and the EU foreign policy division, the EEAS, to draw up a list of options.
All 27 EU nations would need to agree to any EU response and Israel’s closest allies such as Hungary and the Czech Republic could still block even preparatory work.
An EU spokesman on Monday declined to comment on internal discussions but said that Israel’s “annexation is contrary to international law and if annexation goes ahead, the EU will act accordingly”.
On May 6, US envoy to Israel David Friedman said that Israel is expected to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank within the coming weeks.
Israel in February began mapping the areas it seeks to seize control of as part of the plan, and is expected to finish that mapping process in the coming weeks, Friedman told Israel Hayom.
Source: The Palestine Chronicle