The European Union will make a diplomatic push to try to stop Israel from going ahead with a plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, the bloc’s foreign policy chief said on Friday.
Josep Borrell said the EU would use “all our diplomatic capacities” to try to dissuade Israel’s incoming government from going ahead with the move, which also includes the annexation of illegal settlements, approved under United States President Donald Trump’s so-called Middle East plan.
Palestinians in the area, whose land has been under an Israeli military occupation since 1967, are outraged as they want the West Bank as part of a future state. They deem Israeli settlements there illegal, as do most world powers.
While member states of the EU – Israel’s largest trading partner – are alarmed at the prospect of annexations, which they say would violate international law and harm the chances of peace, they are divided about what action to take against Israel.
“What everybody agreed is we have to increase our efforts and our reach out to all relevant actors in the Middle East,” Borrell said after the talks.
“We are ready to do that and we will do that in the next days using all our diplomatic capacities in order to prevent any kind of unilateral action.”
The push will involve talking to Washington and Arab countries as well as Israel and the Palestinians, Borrell said.
Israel’s long-awaited unity government will be sworn in on Sunday – after three inconclusive elections in less than a year and a power-sharing agreement between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former rival Benny Gantz.
Some EU countries have pushed for the bloc to take a hard line against Israel, with Luxembourg’s veteran foreign minister Jean Asselborn in particular calling for the recognition of a Palestinian state.
But others have urged caution and dialogue with Israel, which is seen as an important EU partner in the Middle East.
“We are in a dialogue with the responsible parties, including in Israel,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said.
“We have always made it clear … that we are committed to the goal of a negotiated two-state solution, and that we believe that annexations are not compatible with international law.”
Earlier this week, the United Kingdom also reiterated its long-standing policy that it would not support annexations.