Feb 10, 2024

Czech Republic, Hungary Block EU Sanctions on Israeli Settlers

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

The two staunch allies of Israel made clear in an EU committee on Thursday 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 Hamas, the Palestinian militant group responsible for the Oct. 7 attack on Israel that triggered the current Middle East crisis.

While much international attention has focused on that cross-border assault from Gaza and Israel’s subsequent war there, European officials have also expressed increasing concern about rising violence against Palestinians in the 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.

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 lean more towards the Palestinians.

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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 bans on travel to the EU.

The EU has already imposed sanctions on Hamas following the Oct. 7 attacks and diplomats say more are in the pipeline.

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.”

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