EU close to sanctioning violent Israeli settlers – diplomats

The European Union is close to agreeing sanctions on Israeli settlers attacking Palestinians in the West Bank after Hungary signaled an end to its opposition, European diplomats said on Friday.

While much international attention has focused on Hamas’s cross-border assault from Gaza and Israel’s subsequent war there, European officials have also expressed increasing concern about rising violence against Palestinians in the West Bank.

But the EU’s 27 member countries have struggled to agree sanctions against those responsible, even after the United States and Britain imposed such measures.

Some EU members close to Israel, such as Germany and Austria, had said they were ready to approve sanctions on violent settlers after more had been imposed on Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group.

Hungary, a staunch ally of the Israeli government, had been the most vociferous opposing sanctions on settlers.

Israeli settler activist Elisha Yered, suspected of involvement in the death of a Palestinian teenager near Burka, is seen in a courthouse in Jerusalem, on August 9, 2023. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

But diplomats said Budapest had now allowed proposed sanctions to pass through the EU system. Some said the sanctions could be approved by EU foreign ministers on Monday but others said more time would be needed.

“There’s an agreement on working group level,” said one diplomat.

“The context in the region has worsened,” said another, citing a possible reason for Hungary reversing its opposition.

Hungarian officials at the foreign ministry were not immediately available for comment.

The struggle over the proposed sanctions reflects broader divisions on the Middle East, with some EU countries strongly backing Israel while others lean more towards the Palestinians.

Details of the sanctions

The proposals initially under discussion focused on imposing sanctions on around a dozen people or organizations, according to diplomats.

The EU has not spelled out what the sanctions would entail but officials have said they would include bans on travel to the EU.

“It will probably be fewer than a dozen now after negotiations, but that’s ok as the important thing is to do it now,” the second diplomat said.

The EU has already imposed sanctions on Hamas following the Oct. 7 attacks and diplomats say more are in the pipeline.

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