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Will the international community react to Israel’s annexation project with sanctions?

Auteur : David Cohen, Version française de “La communauté internationale réagira t-elle au projet d’ annexion d’ Israël, 2 juin 2020, Le devoir

The new Israeli coalition government plans to launch the project to annex Palestinian territories as planned in the Trump Plan as early as July 1, 2020, hoping to implement it before the US elections in November.

The project provides for the immediate annexation of 30% of the West Bank, including large settlement blocks, isolated settlements and the Jordan Valley. According to the coalition agreement, PM Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, the leader of the centrist Blue and White party and Deputy Prime Minister, will act in agreement with the United States (US) in consultation with the international community while maintaining the peace agreements existing with Jordan and Egypt. Gantz, who insists on protecting the peace accords, will try to moderate Netanyahu's ardor without blocking his project.

The Trump plan has been rejected by the vast majority of the international community.

The European Union (EU) has privileged relations with Israel through a free trade agreement and cooperation agreements. Israel is dependent on the EU which is its main trading partner with 34% of Israeli exports. In terms of scientific cooperation, the EU funded Israel at almost one billion dollars.

The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, stated that diplomatic channels will be favoured to prevent the annexation. However, if it fails, he predicts that "annexation will not go unnoticed", though admitting the lack of consensus among the member states on the issue. However, a number of states such as France, Spain, Ireland, Sweden, Belgium and Luxembourg are ready to impose sanctions. On the contrary, countries such as Hungary and Austria oppose them.

Possible sanctions against Israel, which can be taken at Union level without requiring unanimity, include the suspension of funding and cooperation on certain projects in the fields of education and science, the cancellation of the free trade agreement with Israel and sanctions against individuals. Possible sanctions at the state level include the recall of ambassadors, support for the proceedings against Israel for its actions in Gaza before the International Criminal Court and the recognition of the Palestinian state.

According to certain experts, economic and diplomatic sanctions from the international community, including the EU, the US and Canada, against Crimea and Russia have not had the desired effect, as they have been insufficient to reverse the annexation of Crimea by Russia and the evacuation of pro-Russian troops from Ukraine.

The King of Jordan warned that if Israel annexed the territories, he expects a "major conflict" and his Prime Minister have threatened to reassess relations between the two countries, including the peace agreement which provides stability in the region. If Deputy Prime Minister Gantz in particular were convinced that Jordan will cancel the peace agreement, he is expected to attempt to moderate the proposed annexation.

Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority (PA) who refuses to negotiate with Israel on the basis of the Trump Plan has announced that the PA was terminating its agreements with Israel, including the important agreement on security. Senior Israeli officials indicated that security coordination between Israel and the PA was expected to continue clandestinely. However, if the threat is carried out, it could spark violence. Let's not forget that the intifadas of the past did not alter Israel’s occupation policy. The PA gesture is probably insufficient to affect the annexation project.

Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate, has declared his opposition to the proposed annexation but also to sanctions while promising to cancel the Trump Plan, if he is elected. So, no threat of sanctions are expected by November.

PM Trudeau, timidly referring to his opposition to the proposed annexation, said in a statement commending the new Israeli government that "our commitment to the rules-based international order is more important than ever". Here also, no sanctions are looming on the horizon.

Except in exceptional circumstances, the Israeli annexation project will be implemented by next November. Sanctions are expected from the EU and some member states. According to experts, only strict, internationally coordinated sanctions are likely to be effective, which does not appear to be the case for Israel. At most, European and possibly Jordanian measures could moderate the annexation project rather than overturn it. One thing is certain, there will be another spike in violence in the region and Israel is already preparing for it.

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