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The New Arab

EU countries considering sanctions if Israel annexes occupied West Bank

Israel began mapping areas it plans to annex in February [Getty]

Date of publication: 12 May, 2020

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European officials will meet on Friday to discuss ways they could deter Israel’s annexation plans, including barring Israel from trade agreements, Haaretz reported.

European Union representatives are set to meet in Brussels on Friday to weigh in on Israel's plan for the illegal annexation of the occupied West Bank and mull sanctions if it proceeds with the illegal action, a report stated on Tuesday.

According to Israeli outlet Haaretz, foreign ministers of EU members states will meet in the Belgian capital to review proposed measures against Israel - should the government proceed with plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.

EU foreign policy spokesperson Peter Stano said that ministers will hold a video conference on Friday to discuss the annexation. 

"Annexation is not in line with international law. If it goes ahead, the EU will act accordingly," Stano told the European Commission’s daily press briefing on Monday.

Asked if Israel will be sanctioned by the EU, Stano said the decision was "up to the member states; at this stage, let's not speculate".

EU countries want to approve the planned sanctions as soon as possible to discourage Israel from going forward with its plan, while EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell is inclined to wait, the Haaretz report said.

France, Spain, Ireland, Sweden, Belgium and Luxembourg are all pushing for tough punishments against Israel if it ignores warnings on the annexation, sources familiar with the discussions told Haaretz.

A Reuters report confirmed the member states were pushing for a "tough EU response" to the planned annexation.

Trade agreements don't require a unanimous vote from all member states, so Israel can't be absolved through the vetos expected from Hungary or the Czech Republic, the sources said.

Read also: EU warns incoming Israeli government against West Bank annexation

Israel could reportedly face denial of membership in trade agreements, special grants or cooperative ventures as retribution.

The plan, which would see more than a third of the West Bank annexed, was backed by the US within the so-called "Deal of the Century", unveiled by the Trump administration earlier this year.

The annexation plan also includes snatching land on illegal Israeli settlements and the strategic Jordan Valley.

US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has previously said it is "up to Israel" whether to annex parts of the West Bank, which has been occupied by Israel since 1967.

Last week, the Palestinian Authority, which controls major cities in the West Bank, threatened to cut all agreements signed with Israel and the US if the annexation goes ahead.

"I want to tell you here that if the Israeli government begins annexation, whether in the Ibrahimi Mosque, in the settlements or in the Jordan Valley, we consider ourselves absolved of all the agreements we signed with them and with the American administration," Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said.

Since Israel seized the West Bank, upwards of 700,000 Israelis have moved into the West Bank and east Jerusalem settlements – considered illegal under international law.

West Bank annexation as outlined in the Trump peace plan [White House]

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