Belgium calls for EU-wide ban on weapons exports to Israel

The country, which holds the EU presidency, has previously called for a review of trade ties over Israel's war in Gaza

Israeli soldiers stand near an Iron Dome battery near the border with the Gaza Strip. Getty Images
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EU presidency holder Belgium is advocating a total ban on the export of weapons to Israel amid the war in Gaza but is opposed by some members of the bloc, Belgian Development Co-operation Minister Caroline Gennez said on Wednesday.

“It is very clear that Belgium is in favour of a full weapons ban but some member states are still exporting,” Ms Gennez told reporters during a visit to Jordan's capital Amman.

The announcement signals further erosion of support for Israel within the EU, although Germany, which dominates the bloc’s weapons sales to Israel, has not indicated that it would stop the bulk of deliveries.

However, Berlin could pause the delivery of some weapons, Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said this month, in a move similar to the one taken by the US, which accounts for about two thirds of Israel’s arms imports.

Most EU member states have become increasingly critical of Israel's conduct after an initial outpouring of support over the killing of about 1,200 civilians in raids by Hamas last October that triggered the war.

More than 35,100 people have been killed in Israel's subsequent military retaliation in Gaza, most of them women and children, according to health officials in the Palestinian territory.

“Israel has the right to defend itself. On the other hand, it is not allowed to punish an entire population for what happened on October 7,” said Ms Gennez, a socialist politician whose master's thesis was on the Oslo peace process.

Earlier this month, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said his government was lobbying the EU to impose trade sanctions on Israeli goods made in Palestinian territories recognised as occupied under international law.

Ms Gennez said the Israeli government would need to be willing to team up with international powers for a viable long-term solution to the conflict.

“This is why we brought the sanctions to the European table. The EU is an important trade partner to Israel,” she said, adding that Israel was obliged to protect human rights in Palestine under an association agreement with the bloc.

Updated: May 15, 2024, 12:36 PM