May 29, 2024 | Flash Brief

European Union Foreign Ministers Threaten Israel With Prospect of Sanctions

May 29, 2024 | Flash Brief

European Union Foreign Ministers Threaten Israel With Prospect of Sanctions

Latest Development

The European Union’s (EU’s) Foreign Affairs Council warned that Israel could face sanctions imposed by the 27-member bloc over its ongoing military operation against Hamas terrorists in the southern Gaza city of Rafah. Irish Foreign Minister Micheál Martin claimed following the council’s May 27 meeting that the EU had engaged in an unprecedented discussion of punitive measures against the Jewish state. “For the first time at an EU meeting, in a real way, I’ve seen significant discussion on sanctions and ‘what if,’” Martin told reporters.

The discussion at the council was triggered by the decision by the International Court of Justice to demand that Israel end operations in Rafah “which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that may bring about its physical destruction, in whole or in part.” An official read-out of the meeting stated that the EU “reiterates its demand on Israel to implement the recent ruling of the International Court of Justice concerning the halting of military operations in Rafah and allowing the access of humanitarian aid into Gaza.”

Expert Analysis

“Almost nine months after the October 7 Hamas atrocities, the EU is twisting a knife in Israel’s back, threatening sanctions against a country with whom it conducts nearly $50 billion worth of trade annually. Israel’s security is being jeopardized by the grandstanding in Brussels, as are the livelihoods of thousands of European workers to whom the EU has a basic responsibility.” Ben CohenFDD Senior Analyst and Rapid Response Manager

“If Europe wants to do its best impression of the 1930s, the U.S. government has a range of political and economic levers to pull in response.” Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

EU Urges Support for PA, UNRWA

In addition, the Foreign Affairs Council called on Israel to “stop blocking the funding” of the Palestinian Authority and declared its opposition to the designation of UNRWA — the UN agency dedicated to Palestinian refugees and their descendants — as a “terrorist organization,” as doing so would prevent it from “working in Gaza and the Palestinian territories.” The council also agreed that a meeting of its Association Council with Israel should be convened to examine whether the Jewish state is abiding by the clause in the 2000 EU-Israel Association Agreement stating that commercial and other exchanges “shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles.” The EU is Israel’s largest trading partner, accounting for nearly 30 percent of its foreign exports.

Top UN Court Calls for Israel to End Anti-Hamas Operations in Rafah,” FDD Flash Brief

Spain, Ireland Lead Push in EU to Unilaterally Recognize Palestinian State,” FDD Flash Brief

Palestinian Munitions May Have Caused Rafah Blaze,” FDD Flash Brief


International Organizations Israel Israel at War Palestinian Politics Sanctions and Illicit Finance