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France pushing for tough EU response to any West Bank annexation

Demonstrators hold a placard reading "Palestine Habibi my love" (top) during a demonstration against Israel's military operations in Gaza and in support of the Palestinian people, on 2 August, 2014 in Paris [KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images]
Demonstrators hold a placard reading "Palestine Habibi my love" (top) during a demonstration against Israel's military operations in Gaza and in support of the Palestinian people, on 2 August, 2014 in Paris [KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images]

France is urging its European Union partners to consider threatening Israel with a tough response if it goes ahead with a de facto 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.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said cabinet discussions will start in July overextending Israeli sovereignty to Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley in the West Bank.

READ: PLO ready to cancel all agreements with Israel if annexation plan proceeds

A Middle East peace plan announced by US President Donald Trump in January gave US recognition of the settlements and Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley while envisaging a demilitarized Palestinian state.

1967 Occupation, Naksa - Cartoon [Sarwar Ahmed/MiddleEastMonitor]

1967 Occupation, Naksa – Cartoon [Sarwar Ahmed/MiddleEastMonitor]

But Palestinians have expressed outrage at Israel’s plans to cement its hold further on land it seized in the 1967 Middle East war, 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: “annexation is contrary to international law and if annexation goes ahead, the EU will act accordingly”.

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