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EU foreign ministers reach consensus to sanction violent Israeli West Bank residents

European Union Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell speaks to members of the media as he attends a European Union Foreign Ministers' meeting in Brussels, Belgium March 18, 2024. )יםאם: REUTERS/Johanna Geron(

The foreign ministers of the 27-member-state European Union reached a consensus on Monday, at least in principle, to impose sanctions on violent Jewish residents in Judea and Samaria – also known as the West Bank – who attack local Arabs.

The European agreement comes after the United States and Great Britain recently decided to impose sanctions on Israeli residents in the West Bank who are considered violent.

A consensus is often hard to reach in the European Union as the governments are frequently divided on Israel and Middle East issues. However, EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell expressed optimism in an official statement to the media.

“A solid compromise has been agreed upon at the working level and I hope that this will be continued until full adoption soon, but the political agreement is there,” Borell said after the meeting of the European foreign ministers in Brussels, Belgium

“Today, we have approved, unanimously, the sanctions against the violent settlers that harass the Palestinians in the West Bank,” the foreign minister of Spain, Jose Manuel Albares, told journalists.

Spain is one of Israel’s harshest critics in the EU. It is currently unclear when the sanctions will be implemented.

Around half a million Israeli Jews currently reside in Judea and Samaria. While the overwhelming majority are peaceful and law-abiding individuals, there is a radicalized small minority who have taken part in acts of violence against Palestinians.

The U.S. Biden administration recently decided to expand its previous sanctions against radical Israeli West Bank residents to entire Jewish communities in the region. The White House decision was based on data provided by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“Since 7 October, 2023, and as of 31 January, 2024, OCHA has recorded 494 Israeli settler attacks against Palestinians, resulting in Palestinian casualties (49 incidents), damage to Palestinian-owned property (388 incidents), or both casualties and damage to property (57 incidents),” the OCHA report stated.

“One-third of the settler attacks against Palestinians after 7 October 2023 have involved firearms, including shootings and threats of shootings,” the UN report added.

In February, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken criticized the Israeli government’s decision to build new homes for Jewish residents in Judea and Samaria. Washington’s top diplomat argued that the United States traditionally views Israeli communities in the West Bank as an obstacle to peace.

“It’s been longstanding U.S. policy under Republican and Democratic administrations alike that new settlements are counterproductive to reaching an enduring peace,” Blinken stated.

“They’re also inconsistent with international law. Our administration maintains a firm opposition to settlement expansion. And in our judgment, this only weakens – it doesn’t strengthen – Israel’s security,” the state secretary argued.

The Biden administration signaled a reversal of the Pompeo Doctrine, named after former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a policy which declared that the U.S. no longer views Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Golan Heights and East Jerusalem as "inconsistent with international law."

In a separate issue, the European Union decided to impose more sanctions on the terrorist organization Hamas following the deadly Oct. 7 invasion of Israel when about 3,000 Palestinian terrorists massacred 1,200 Israeli men, women and children.

Some have interpreted the EU's decision to simultaneously sanction Hamas terrorists alongside a small amount of violent Israeli residents in Judea and Samaria Union as an attempt to draw a moral equivalence between the two.

However, EU states with close ties to Israel – notably Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Austria – emphasized that they do not equate the violence of radical settlers with the brutality of Hamas, an EU- and U.S.-designated terrorist organization that openly calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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