Home Society Israel rejects EU call for ad-hoc summit
Israel rejects EU call for ad-hoc summit

Israel rejects EU call for ad-hoc summit

by host
Israel rejects EU call for ad-hoc summit

BRUSSELS — Israel is refusing to meet with EU countries for an ad-hoc summit to discuss its compliance with human rights obligations under a bilateral agreement with the bloc, as requested by EU ministers and the EU’s top diplomat.

Instead, the country wants to convene a regular summit of senior political figures in the second half of the year, when Hungary — one of Israel’s most vocal supporters within the bloc — presides over negotiations among EU countries.

The Israeli government on Thursday sent its official answer to EU High Representative Josep Borrell, who had invited it to an ad-hoc meeting of the EU-Israel Association Council, the Israeli mission to the EU told POLITICO.

The European Commission confirmed receipt of the letter, and told POLITICO that EU foreign ministers would discuss the Israeli reaction at their next meeting on Monday.

EU ministers decided last month to convene an Association Council with Israel to discuss its compliance with its human rights obligations under the EU-Israel Association Agreement, in view of the worsening humanitarian toll from Israel’s military operations in Gaza. The agreement is largely a trade deal.

“We are happy to convene an Association Council. Not an ad-hoc association council, but a regular association in which, as with any other country, we discuss all elements of bilateral EU-Israel relations, including trade, and education and culture … as well as human rights-related topics and the war,” the mission said in a verbal statement to POLITICO.

“Not under any circumstances will we agree to an ad-hoc special Association Council, however the High Representative wishes to call it,” said the mission. “We cannot use the Association Council as leverage for … political purposes.”

Some EU countries, including Belgium, which holds the EU presidency until the end of the month, want to reopen the agreement and exert pressure on Israel through trade sanctions. Belgium had previously pushed to hold the meeting during its presidency.

But earlier this week, Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz announced on X after meeting with his Hungarian counterpart Péter Szijjártó that Israel would agree to a regular summit under the upcoming Hungarian presidency of the EU “to improve Israel’s status in the EU, together with Hungary and other friendly countries within the EU.”

Budapest has been one of Israel’s biggest allies within the bloc — Olivér Várhelyi, Hungary’s commissioner for neighborhood and enlargement, made headlines last month when he met with PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. The International Criminal Court has requested that arrest warrants be issued against both men for alleged war crimes.

Association Councils usually take place on a yearly basis — the one with Israel resumed meeting in 2022 after having been dormant for nearly a decade.

Following Israel’s massive military response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, some EU countries have called to put Israel under pressure by commercial means. Amid growing reports of Israeli settler violence against Palestinians in territories occupied by Israel, Belgium last month proposed banning imports of products from those territories. The country’s development minister has also called for a European embargo on sending arms to Israel.

Other countries, such as Germany, Austria and Finland, however, have struck a more cautious tone, warning against such measures.

Europe is Israel’s largest trading partner, accounting for 28.8 percent of its trade in goods in 2022.

Source link