It’s Time to Impose Sanctions on Israel

Over the past weeks, we have witnessed Israel’s genocide against the Palestinians unfold before our eyes.

The extraordinary part here is that Israeli high-ranking officials have actually filled the usually missing piece of the puzzle – expressing intent to destroy the group. Intent is very rarely expressed in such terms. States committing massacres rarely admit that part.

It is time for Europe and the Global South to come together and impose global sanctions on Israel. Just talking won’t work. It is time to turn our backs on American foreign policy towards Israel, which is in essence a carte blanche to carry on with the military offensive that has taken a disproportionately large number of victims, mostly Palestinian children.

This week, Belgian Vice Prime Minister, Petra de Sutter, openly called for sanctions against Israel. Spain’s minister for social affairs, Ione Belarra, openly called Israel’s actions “a genocide”. European leaders are coming together to take a stand. It will take some effort to convince the rest of the leaders of the EU to jointly impose sanctions on Israel.

Sanctions against Israel can take various shapes and forms. First of all, countries can break diplomatic ties with Israel, calling off their diplomats, as several Latin American countries have already done.

Furthermore, economic sanctions can target sensitive imports and exports in trade, and also cut and ban foreign direct investment. Freezing of assets and travel bans are another option.

European countries can also express support for the trial of Israeli political and military leaders at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, the Netherlands. Palestine is a party to the ICC and jurisdiction can be easily established.

EU sanctions will have to hit where it hurts the most. The blueprint can be the European sanctions on Russia, where the EU sanctioned the occupying power and the aggressor. The comparisons are there, Israel also being the occupying power and the aggressor.

Europe can lead the way as an economic giant. Sanctions on Israel by default can’t be universal global sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council, as the US will always block such moves at the Security Council.

The legal basis for the EU’s trade relations with Israel is the EU-Israel Association Agreement, which entered into force in June 2000.

According to official EU information, Israel is the EU’s 25th biggest trade partner, representing 0.8% of the EU’s total trade in goods in 2022.

In contrast, the EU is Israel’s biggest trade partner, accounting for 28.8% of its trade in goods in 2022. 31.9% of Israel’s imports came from the EU, and 25.6% of the country’s exports went to the EU.

In other words, the EU can significantly hurt Israel’s economy, while Israel doesn’t have that leverage over the EU.

In addition, the European Neighborhood Policy provides political and financial assistance to Israel that can be cut off. Under the Southern Neighborhood, the EU can cut relations and remove Israel from the group of strategically important countries.

The EU countries, collectively and individually, have certain leverage over Israel. It’s time to flex that muscle. Only expressing concern over the situation will not work. EU countries can follow the example of the Belgian and Spanish officials and move towards a discussion around the specific shape that sanctions on Israel could take.

History will judge us, Europeans, harshly with the question as to what we did as a genocide unfolded before our eyes. The EU is in a unique position to do something and undertake tangible steps which history will remember.

[Photo by Wafa, via Wikimedia Commons]

*Iveta Cherneva is an Amazon best-selling author and political analyst. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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