Belgium will lead re-evaluation of EU-Israel trade accord

Belgium also wants Europe to introduce import duty on products coming from illegal Israeli settlements, Deputy Prime Minister Petra De Sutter says

Belgium's Deputy Prime Minister Petra De Sutter says Belgium will 're-evaluate' a trade agreement between Europe and Israel amid allegations of human rights abuses. Getty
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Belgium's Deputy Prime Minister Petra De Sutter says her country will lead a "re-evaluation" of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, which forms the basis of trade between the bloc and Israel.

"Decided: Belgium will take the lead at the EU level to re-evaluate our Association Agreement with Israel", Ms De Sutter said on X.

Belgium will also co-sponsor a UN resolution in favour of full Palestinian UN membership and would seek an EU-wide import duty on products coming from illegal Israeli settlements, she added.

In February, Ireland's former premier Leo Varadkar said that other EU states were examining the 2000 EU-Israel trade accord on the basis that Israel may be breaching the agreement's human rights clause.

In a letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Mr Varadkar and Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez called for “an urgent review of whether Israel is complying with its obligations, including under the EU/Israel Association Agreement, which makes respect for human rights and democratic principles an essential element of the relationship”.

Article 2 of the agreement states that relations between the parties "shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles".

On Friday, the European Union imposed sanctions on four "extremist" Israeli settlers and two groups over violence against Palestinians in the West Bank.

The move to target violent settlers in the West Bank comes two months after the United States and Britain took similar steps.

The EU put two "radical" organisations Lehava and the Hilltop Youth on its asset freeze and visa ban blacklist for their attacks on Palestinians.

It also included Hilltop Youth leaders Meir Ettinger and Elisha Yered, along with settlers Neria Ben Pazi and Yinon Levi.

"The listed individuals and entities are responsible for serious human rights abuses against Palestinians," said an EU statement.

Journalist attempts citizen's arrest on EU chief for role in Israel-Gaza war

Journalist attempts citizen's arrest on EU chief for role in Israel-Gaza war

It said abuses included "torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" and "the violation of right to property and to private and family life of Palestinians in the West Bank".

Separately, the United States on Friday said it was adding Ben-Zion Gopstein, the founder and leader of Lehava, to its own blacklist.

The decision was the second part of an agreement among EU member states that saw Palestinian Islamists Hamas last week sanctioned over sexual violence during the October 7 attack on Israel.

On Thursday, the US blocked a UN draft resolution that recommended to the 193-member UN General Assembly that “the State of Palestine be admitted to membership of the United Nations”.

The United Arab Emirates that granting Palestinians full membership in the United Nations would be "an important step to boost peace efforts in the region".

The Palestinians are currently a non-member observer state, a de facto recognition of statehood that was granted by the UN General Assembly in 2012.

An application for admission to UN membership must be approved by the Security Council before being forwarded to the Assembly, where the matter requires at least two-thirds support to pass.

At least 468 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces or settlers across the West Bank since the October 7 Hamas assault on Israel that triggered the war, according to official Palestinian sources.

Updated: April 20, 2024, 11:42 AM