EU Diplomats Predict Low-Key ‘Punishment’ for Annexation

YERUSHALAYIM -
A view of the Karnei Shomron community. (Gili Yaari/Flash 90/File Photo)

If Israel proceeds with its plan to apply sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and communities in Yehudah and Shomron, the European Union will take punitive measures of relatively little economic significance, European diplomats have been saying in recent talks, reported Yisrael Hayom.

According to the European envoys, the internal working guidelines of EU institutions; the historical relationship between Israel and Germany, as well as other EU member nations; and Europe’s interest in maintaining good relations with Israel will ultimately prevent the EU from responding harshly to the application of Israeli sovereignty.

The officials said that EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell Fontelles was leading a line very critical of Israel. At a meeting of EU foreign ministers some three weeks ago, Borrell tried to publish a joint statement warning Israel not to extend sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and communities in Yehudah and Shomron, but Hungary, the Czech Republic and Austria blocked the move. Borrell was forced to put out the statement in his own name only.

Moreover, Borell’s independent action drew criticism from EU member states and even President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, as it violated EU work rules, which require consensus for such steps.

Diplomats expect that the EU nations friendly to Israel will also block initiatives from Sweden, Ireland, Luxembourg, and other countries to place Israel under economic sanctions.

“Every major decision about European foreign policy requires consensus of all 27 member nations,” one diplomat told Yisrael Hayom.

“Because of the serious disagreements, European diplomats in Israel cannot even agree on what is happening here. If they can’t agree on the facts, there will not be any agreement about sanctions,” he continued.

The officials also noted that Germany – the strongest EU member, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency – will not lend its hand to serious action against Israel.

“It is inconceivable that Germany would recall its ambassador or agree to any economic boycott of Israeli products. A scenario like that or anything similar to it is simply implausible,” another diplomat said.

The envoys also said they did not expect the EU to cancel its partnership with Israel on the Horizon 2027 research initiative, because Israel’s research and development capabilities were “too good” to give up. They said that even if there were several officials in the EU Foreign Ministry who wanted to punish Israel severely over sovereignty, other key actors in EU institutions would use the tools at their disposal to undermine attempts to do so.

Ultimately, the diplomats assessed, Europe’s response to the momentous step Israel plans will be largely symbolic. They expect the EU to issue a harshly worded response that will accuse Israel of violating international law, and it is possible that policies of labeling products that originate from Yehudah and Shomron will be enforced more strictly than they have until now.

Another possibility is that the EU might pass a resolution not to upgrade its ties with Israel, a step that has been frozen for decades already. Finally, the diplomats said it was likely that a number of EU nations would unilaterally recognize the existence of a Palestinian state.

The diplomats who spoke with Yisrael Hayom attacked the EU’s internal policies, particularly when it comes to Israel. “Every time that Israel is under discussion, you can see that minds are locked. The discussion becomes dogmatic and nothing reasonable can be said. People are stuck in perceptions from the past, and for some, you can see how annoyed they are by their faces and hands. The European discourse is very hypocritical,” one official said.