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14 Feb, 2024 22:48

EU states’ leaders urge Brussels to reconsider Israel policy

The prime ministers of Ireland and Spain have called for a review of West Jerusalem’s compliance with human rights committments
EU states’ leaders urge Brussels to reconsider Israel policy

The European Commission must urgently reconsider whether Israel is complying with its human rights obligations in Gaza under the EU/Israel Association Agreement, an economic pact that forms the basis of relations between Brussels and West Jerusalem, the leaders of Ireland and Spain told EC President Ursula von der Leyen and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in a letter on Wednesday.

“We are deeply concerned at the deteriorating situation in Israel and in Gaza, especially the impact the ongoing conflict is having on innocent Palestinians, especially children and women,” Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez wrote.

The prime ministers pointed out that while it is at heart a free-trade agreement, the EU/Israel Association Agreement also “makes respect for human rights and democratic principles an essential element of the relationship.” If Brussels finds those principles have been violated, it should propose “appropriate measures to the council to consider,” the letter stated.

To prevent further irreversible harm to the people of Gaza, an imminent humanitarian ceasefire is urgently required.

“The implementation of the two-state solution is the only way to make sure this cycle of violence does not repeat itself,” they continued, insisting the EU had “a responsibility to take action to make this a reality.”

Reiterating a condemnation of Hamas’ raid and a call for a release of the hostages it holds in Gaza, Sanchez and Varadkar observed that Israel’s right to self-defense “can only be exercised in line with international law….[and] must comply with the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution.”

“The expanded Israeli military operation in the Rafah area poses a grave and imminent threat that the international community must urgently confront,” they wrote, referring to the planned ground assault that has been widely condemned even by West Jerusalem’s allies, including leaders in the US and Europe.

On Monday, South Africa filed an urgent request with the International Court of Justice seeking a determination of whether Israel’s planned Rafah offensive would constitute a “further imminent breach of the rights of Palestinians in Gaza.” Nearly a million Palestinians evacuated from other parts of the territory are sheltering in the city, and there is nowhere left for them to flee within its borders, as UN and international human rights advocates have warned.

Israel has claimed its offensive on Rafah is necessary to eradicate Hamas, insisting the city is the “last bastion” of the militant group. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier this week that a plan to safeguard civilians in Rafah is being formulated.

An EC spokesperson acknowledged receiving the letter and stressed there must be “accountability for violations of international law” on both sides, insisting Brussels “deplores all loss of civilian lives.”