But despite Berlin joining the likes of France, Spain, Ireland and Belgium, which have strongly pushed for measures against violent Israeli extremist settlers in the West Bank, the EU is stuck. The smaller and geopolitically less relevant Hungary and the Czech Republic are holding up their defense of Israel’s actions, including refusing to agree on sanctions against settlers, which will be discussed again by EU diplomats on Wednesday, two EU diplomats said. Officials from Hungary and the Czech Republic did not respond to a request for comment.
Not only has the war laid bare the divisions within the bloc, it has made the EU’s posturing around a potential peace conference irrelevant, those inside the Brussels bubble said. Especially when the United States, Israel’s most public supporter, has announced action against violent extremist settlers in recent days.
“It’s a disgrace,” said an EU diplomat. “Europe is nowhere in this discussion. [European Commission President Ursula] von der Leyen is burned. [The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep] Borrell is not taken seriously inside or outside the EU.”
Israel’s operation has killed more than 27,000 Palestinians in Gaza and dozens of others in the occupied West Bank, according to the Palestinian Authority and Hamas health agencies, since the Hamas attack in October. About 85 percent of the population has been displaced and Israel has destroyed a quarter of a million homes in Gaza, according to the U.N. Famine is inevitable, said the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food.
Since the start of the current iteration of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the divisions between more pro-Israeli countries such as Germany and pro-Palestinian member countries have prevented a strong European response.
The EU’s top diplomat Borrell proposed sanctions on extremist Israeli settlers in December. In January, the EU slapped new sanctions on Palestinian militant group Hamas, hitting Hamas’ financial streams and targeting half a dozen individuals. Informally, the idea among member countries was to agree to those Hamas sanctions first before moving on to the sanctions against extremist settlers.