Israel’s new pro-annexation government: The EU must call for full respect of international law

Israel/Palestine, Statement

On 1 January 2023, Israel had its newest government led by Benjamin Netanyahu officially sworn in. This is the first government in Israeli history composed of only far-right and ultra-Orthodox parties, including several Ministers who openly express racist and violent views. While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to convince his foreign allies that the current regime is one of ‘business as usual’, his internal allies have spent no time in pushing their project of entrenching the Israeli settler colonial project and its apartheid policies. 

Regarding the occupation, the ruling party coalition agreement in its first paragraph describes what it calls “Israel’s exclusive and indisputable rights to all the lands of Israel¨, including the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Syrian Golan. While the latter two have been formally annexed by Israel – despite international law barring them to do so – the intention to annex the former in its totality has been made explicit for the first time. Moreover, Benjamin Netanyahu has confirmed his intentions to annex the territory through his official Twitter account, further cementing his position. In addition to the open annexation plans, the new government declared its commitment to continue its settlement expansion project, with the regularisation of 70 settlements with over 25 thousand settlers.  

The new government has also shown itself to be deeply hostile to manifestations of Palestinian self-determination and works to reduce even further the space of Palestinian civil society. Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir ordered police to tear down Palestinian flags, equating their exhibition in Israel with the support of terrorism. On the other hand, Minister of Finance Bezalel Smotrich decided to punish the Palestinian Authority after it legally and legitimately recurred to the ICJ and ICC for accountability on the ongoing Occupation, punishments which include the divestment of funds, cancellation of travel permits and withholding building permits in Area C. Smotrich declared recently he has no interest in the continued existence of the PA. 

The Israeli government has also announced its intention to disfranchise its own judicial power in order to strengthen its legislative power beyond any reasonable capacity. The main priority of the new government is to implement a judicial override clause, allowing for the Knesset to disregard any decision of the Israeli Supreme Court. This means that under this new arrangement, if the Court strikes down a law for being the Israeli equivalent of “unconstitutional”, the Knesset could disregard this decision and approve the law anyway, cementing the supremacy of the legislative power in the hands of political extremists. 

Finally, while Netanyahu tries to convince his foreign allies that the current religious status quo will continue, on 3 January Minister Ben-Gvir – a known radical with ties to Jewish extremist and terrorist organisations – stormed the Al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem in an open act of provocation. Ben-Gvir has for several times declared his goal of opening Al-Aqsa for Jewish worship, an act which could destabilise the region and trigger waves of violence. 

The Israeli government has no interest in complying with the main points of the EU’s position in its Association Council with Israel as well as the European Parliament resolution on the prospects of the two-state solution for Israel and Palestine of December 2022.  Nevertheless, although being constantly rebuffed by the Israeli government in the EU’s basic requests that it complies with international law, the EU has increasingly deepened its cooperation ties with Israel during the last decade, giving the impression to the international community that it awards the country for its international violations.   

Faced with this new context of explicit violation of international law, it is vital that the EU and its members states: 

  • Unambiguously demand that Israel respects its international obligations and commitments, including the end of the occupation and settlement expansion in the West Bank, listing the potential legal consequences if the country refuses to do so; 
  • Revise and when necessary cancel international agreements made with Israel, as not to provide aid and legitimacy to a serious breach of international responsibility, in accordance to Article 40 of the Draft Articles on International State Responsibility.  
  • Continue to support financially, logistically and publicly Palestinian and Israeli human rights organisations fighting against this wave of Israeli radicalism and its longstanding violations. 
  • Use the EU-Israel Association Council – despite its problematic nature as a reopened avenue of structured dialogue between the two actors to channel its criticism of Israeli policies and to present its array of countermeasures to redress Israeli behavior; Furthermore, it should reconsider the existence of the Council itself if Israel does not honour its human rights and democratic commitments enshrined in its 2000 Association Agreement with the EU. 

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