EU threats remain vague three weeks before sovereignty push – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on June 10, 2020

Three weeks before a possible vote on Israel applying sovereignty in the West Bank, EU officials continued to voice their opposition, but would not list specific repercussions for the ties between Brussels and Jerusalem.German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas was scheduled to arrive in Jerusalem on Wednesday morning, with plans to discuss annexation in meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, where he plans to take a similar tack.An EU official said on Tuesday Brussels is still trying to engage with Israel and explain why they view it as a problem, rather than make specific threats.In that vein, the EUs Foreign Affairs Council invited Ashkenazi to Brussels. The message it seeks to send is that it takes international law seriously, as the structure under which it operates. As such, the EU would not recognize Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank.In addition, the EU is concerned that Israel will send a message that will reverberate through the Middle East that force works better than negotiations.However, there is no specific cost for Israel being cited in conversations between officials if Israel moves forward with annexation, as it remains unclear what Israel will do and member states do not agree on the consequences.The trajectory of Israel-EU ties has always been positive, an EU official said, predicting that there is a danger that trajectory could change if Israel extends its laws to parts of the West Bank, though it may not happen overnight.The remarks came days after Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh told EU President Charles Michel that Brussels should recognize a Palestinian state and impose sanctions on Israel to prevent it from extending sovereignty in the West Bank.The European source cited security matters as an area that is unlikely to change, saying that Israels security is still important to the EU.In addition, the EU, Israels biggest trading partner, is unlikely to impose blanket sanctions on Israel. The decision would have to be made unilaterally and some EU member states have said they would veto them.There are other ways in which Israel could suffer consequences, though EU sources have categorized them as options member states could choose in areas of EU policy in which unanimity is not required, rather than an ultimatum of action that will be taken if Israel moves forward with annexation.A German source said the consequences of annexation are still unclear, and should be defined not in terms of sanctions, but in lost opportunities.Talks about expanding EU investment in Israel would likely be suspended, according to the EU source.The Horizon Europe scientific research program and the Erasmus+ educational program, from which Israel has received billions of euros in recent years, is up for renewal next year, and the terms of Israels participation could become less favorable or individual member states could choose not to work with Israel.Settlement products must already be labeled in the EU, and there could be stronger enforcement of the policy, or an all-out ban.In addition, the European Parliament can block agreements with Israel that were approved by the EUs executive.Annexation would pose a very serious obstacle to the relationship and put Israel in an unfavorable context, according to the official. States may lose interest in Israel.For example, individual member states may no longer hold meetings with Israeli officials or to reduce ties in ways that are not limited by the EU. They could also recognize a Palestinian state, as some already have.Maas is expected to arrive from Berlin on Wednesday.A statement from the German Embassy in Israel said the fact that... Maas is the first European guest since the [coronavirus] outbreak reflects the unique, close and varied bilateral ties between Germany and Israel.The embassy emphasized that Maass meetings will involve a spectrum of bilateral and regional topics, including the future of the peace process in the Middle East.Netanyahus plan to extend Israels laws to about 30% of the West Bank, including settlements and the Jordan Valley next month, in accordance with US President Donald Trumps peace plan, is at the top of Maass agenda.Gantz and Ashkenazi have not taken a public stance on annexation, other than emphasizing the importance to maintain the peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt. As such, Ashkenazi plans to tell his German counterpart that Israel is still weighing the matter and its regional impact.Maas plans to express his concerns that annexation will have greater costs than benefits and to make sure Ashkenazi is aware of that high cost, a German source said.The German foreign minister plans to continue to Amman after his visit to Jerusalem, and will bring up Jordans concerns and the possibility of annexation threatening Israel-Jordan peace to Israeli officials.July 1, the earliest date for Netanyahu to bring sovereignty to a vote, coincides with Germany becoming president of the Council of the European Union for six months, starting in July, as well as of the UN Security Council for a month.Germany hopes to avoid too much polarization in the EU over foreign policy and seeks to play a bridging role in Brussels between Israels biggest critics and those who are more reticent to threaten Israel.Maas is also expected to sign an agreement for Germany to give 1 million euros to Yad Vashem every year for the next decade.

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EU threats remain vague three weeks before sovereignty push - The Jerusalem Post

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