The European Union is divided on how to confront Israel over its plans to annex much of the West Bank, and while the bloc may protest, it is not likely to respond consequentially, international affairs and security analyst Mark Sleboda told Radio Sputnik’s Political Misfits Thursday.
“The new Israeli government, the coalition government between [Likud Chairman and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and [Israel Resilience Party leader] Benny Gantz, have basically agreed that they are going to annex parts of the West Bank by July 1. They realize they have to do this while [US President Donald] Trump is still in office, because a Democrat like [former US Vice President Joe] Biden might have more reservations on this than Trump would. So, they see a ticking clock,” Sleboda told hosts Bob Schlehuber and Jamarl Thomas.
Netanyahu on Sunday said that the country should “extend Israel’s law” over the West Bank.
“These regions are the cradle of the Jewish people. It is time to extend Israel’s law over them. This step won’t bring us further away from peace, it will get us closer. The truth is, and everyone knows it, that the hundreds of thousands of settlers in Judea and Samaria will always stay put in any future deal,” Netanyahu said, the Times of Israel reported.
In the West Bank live 463,000 Israelis on settlements deemed illegal under international law – and roughly 2.9 million Palestinians.
Although Josep Borrell, the European Union’s top diplomat, on Monday warned Israel against its annexation plans, saying that the EU would not recognize any changes to the 1967 boundaries not agreed upon by both Israel and Palestine, the bloc appears to be conflicted on the issue.
“The EU is wringing their hands. They’re making threats. The EU, taken as one bloc, is Israel’s largest trading partner. The EU is divided on the issue … France and Sweden and Luxembourg are making a lot of noise about this and saying that Israel can’t go through with this. On the other side, many of the Eastern European countries and Central European countries – Hungary, Romania, Austria and [the] Czech Republic – are basically nixing any idea of sanctions,” Sleboda explained.
Last month, several European states, including France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark, Finland and the UK, filed a formal protest document with the Israeli Foreign Ministry, warning Israel of “serious consequences for regional stability and for Israel’s position in the international arena” if it proceeds with the annexation.
However, Israel’s closer friends, like Hungary, have taken a more cautious approach. In February, Italy, Hungary, Austria and the Czech Republic opposed an EU resolution that would have condemned Israeli annexation of the West Bank.
“They do not have consensus on this,” Sleboda added. “If there are eventual sanctions, punishments coming from the EU, it will be very weak and watered down.”
In January, Trump unveiled his “Vision for Peace” plan for Israel and Palestine. Under the plan, Israel would be allowed to exercise sovereignty over approximately 30% of West Bank territory and the Jordan Valley, with a joint US-Israeli mapping committee subsequently working on drawing up specific boundaries of the territory outlined in the plan.