Creating new perspectives since 2009

Hungary, Czech Republic hold up EU move to sanction violent Israeli settlers

February 9, 2024 at 2:38 pm

Israeli forces intervene to Palestinians who staged a demonstration against land confiscation of Jewish settlers in Hebron, West Bank on August 01, 2023. [Mamoun Wazwaz – Anadolu Agency]

An EU effort to impose sanctions on Israeli settlers attacking Palestinians in the occupied West Bank has stalled due to objections from Hungary and the Czech Republic, Reuters reported diplomats saying.

The two staunch allies of Israel made clear in an EU committee yesterday they were not ready to let the proposal go forward for now, said four diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity about internal EU deliberations.

Some said a compromise may be found later to let the measures proceed, possibly after more EU sanctions on Palestinian faction Hamas.

European officials have also expressed increasing concern about rising violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

The United States and Britain have expressed similar concerns and have already imposed sanctions on several settlers they say are responsible for violence.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in December he would propose similar measures.

Watch: Israeli settlers set fire to Palestinian land in Tulkarm

But EU sanctions require unanimity among member states and the bloc has yet to find agreement – a reflection of broader divisions on the Middle East, with some EU countries strongly backing Israel while others calling for an end to Tel Aviv’s genocidal bombing of Gaza.

The proposals under discussion would impose sanctions on around a dozen people or organisations, according to diplomats. The EU has not spelled out what the sanctions would entail but officials have said they would include travel bans to the EU.

The EU imposed sanctions on Hamas after 7 October and diplomats say more are in the pipeline.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on Wednesday now was “definitely not the time” to sanction Israeli settlers, state news agency MTI reported. Budapest says the EU’s focus should be on helping Israel to defeat Hamas and free prisoners of war held in Gaza.

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky said his country was not “substantively” blocking sanctions on settlers inciting violence but did not want them to come alongside measures against Hamas.

“An act of terrorism is not on the same level as acts by settlers,” he said. “These things cannot be connected.”

France, which has been pushing for the settler sanctions and is expected to introduce national travel bans on two or three individuals imminently, is hoping that once its measures are in place European partners will be more willing to press ahead.

“Once we have our measures we shall see how the others react,” said a French diplomatic source.