Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90; CC-BY-4.0: © European Union 2022
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vs. Irish Foreign Minister Micheál Martin

In a unanimous decision on Monday, European Union foreign ministers agreed to call for an Association Council meeting with Israel. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss Israel’s adherence to its human rights obligations under the EU-Israel Association Agreement, which is a trade deal between the two parties.

Additionally, the EU plans to use this meeting to address the Netanyahu government’s compliance with last Friday’s ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that ordered Israel to halt its military offensive in Rafah, which will complete the collapse of the terror organization Hamas. The EU intends to confront the Israelis about respecting and implementing the ruling.

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Europe represents Israel’s primary trading partners, constituting nearly one-third of all Israeli trade. Consequently, the Association Agreement between the European Union and Israel is viewed as a formidable instrument for the EU to exert pressure on Netanyahu’s cabinet. The intent is to compel Israel to refrain from carrying out its proposed military offensive in the Gaza Strip by leveraging the significant economic ties between Europe and Israel.

Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin told reporters on Monday that “There was a very clear consensus about the need to uphold the international humanitarian legal institutions.”

“For the first time at an EU meeting, in a real way, I’ve seen significant discussion on sanctions and ‘what if’,” Martin said. Admitting that there still is “some distance between people articulating the need for a sanctions-based approach if Israel does not comply with the ICJ’s ruling … to an agreement in the Council meeting, given all of the different perspectives there.”

“But there is a lot of concern … amongst member states in respect of what is a clear situation where the ICJ has ruled, made provisional orders, and the EU has always upheld the independence of that court and the need for nations to comply with it,” the Irish FM said.

“There was a strong discussion on the provisional orders of the International Court of Justice,” Martin noted, with “very clear views that Israel should adhere to those provisional orders to open the border crossing with Rafah and cease its military operations in Rafah.”

“One of the conclusions was to convene a meeting of the EU-Israeli Association Council to raise our grave concerns and to … seek from Israel a response in terms of complying with the orders of the Court,” he said.
“International humanitarian law, adherence to human rights, is the raison d’etre of the European Union and events now are really putting that issue into sharp focus, particularly given the attack last night when so many innocent people were killed,” he stressed.

Netanyahu on Monday rebuffed the emerging threat of EU sanctions, saying:

“The repeated false claims that we are the obstacle are not only harmful to the families – that much is obvious, and I sympathize with them. But it goes beyond that: it delays the release of the hostages and undermines negotiations. Instead of focusing pressure on Sinwar, who holds the hostages in his dungeons, the pressure is misdirected at the Israeli government.
Israel is constantly asked to make concession after concession. So why would Sinwar feel any pressure? He sits in his bunker, rubbing his hands in satisfaction, delighted that others are doing the work for him.
The pressure should be directed at Hamas. We are taking action against them, fighting hard in the north, center, and south of the Gaza Strip.
In Rafah, we have evacuated about one million civilians. Tragically, despite our immense efforts to avoid harming non-combatants, an incident occurred yesterday. We are investigating it thoroughly and will learn from it, as is our policy and longstanding conduct.
For us, any non-combatant hurt is a tragedy; for Hamas, it is a strategy. That is the core difference.
The pressure, both international and domestic, on the Israeli government, which is doing everything possible to secure the hostages’ release, only strengthens Sinwar’s resolve, leading him to demand terms that would endanger Israel’s very existence—terms we cannot accept.
Let me be clear: I will not yield or surrender. I will not end the war before achieving all our goals. Our fallen heroes will not have died in vain.
If we surrender, the massacres, rapes, and atrocities of October 7th will be repeated, just as Hamas has promised.
If we surrender, we will not bring back all our hostages. If we surrender, we will deliver a great victory to terrorism, to Iran, and to the entire axis of evil—those who wish us dead.
Those who say they cannot withstand the pressure should raise a black flag.
No, they should wave a white flag and surrender.
I will not.
I will continue the fight until we raise the flag of victory.”
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David writes news at JewishPress.com.