Germany rejects sanctions against Israel over settlement expansion

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Jerusalem (Ronen Zvulun - AFP)

Middle East Monitor  /  October 29, 2021

Germany said, Friday, it would not support sanction threats over Israel’s ongoing settlement expansion, only a day after it issued a joint statement with 11 other European countries, reaffirming their “strong opposition” to Tel Aviv’s settlement policy in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, Anadolu News Agency reports.

Asked at a routine press conference in Berlin whether Germany would back sanctions against the Jewish state, Andrea Sasse, deputy spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry, said: “From our point of view, it is not helpful to speculate about such consequences.”

“The declaration is definitely a strong sign and speculating here about the threat of sanctions or the like would be wrong from our point of view. Besides, we don’t do it anyway,” she added.

Sasse was referring to Thursday’s release of a joint statement by the spokespersons of the foreign ministries of Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain and Sweden on Jewish settlements.

“We urge the Government of Israel to reverse its decision to advance plans for the construction of around 3,000 settlement units in the West Bank. We reiterate our strong opposition to its policy of settlement expansion across the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which violates international law and undermines efforts for the two-state solution,” the statement said.

“We call on both parties to build on steps taken in recent months to improve cooperation and reduce tensions. We reiterate our call to implement United Nations Resolution 2334 with all its provisions, with the aim of rebuilding trust and creating the conditions necessary for promoting peace,” it added.

On Tuesday, Germany lambasted Israel’s continued settlement construction in the Palestinian-run territories and occupied East Jerusalem, reiterating it was an obstacle to a two-state solution.

“Very concerned by Israeli publication of tenders for construction of more than 1,300 housing units in settlements in the West Bank. Settlements are contrary to international law and a substantial obstacle to peace and a two-state solution. They should stop,” tweeted Christian Buck, director for Near and Middle East and North Africa at the German Foreign Ministry.

Buck was alluding to Israeli plans to build 1,355 homes in the occupied West Bank, which was seized by Israel during the 1967 June War.

A usually die-hard ally of Israel, Germany has repeatedly gone out of its way to criticize the Israeli settlement building, saying it would only further complicate the so-called Middle East peace process.

Berlin has, time and again, vowed to continue its diplomatic efforts, in cooperation with the US and other EU partners, to find a mutually acceptable, negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that addresses the legitimate concerns of both sides.

Around 650,000 Israeli Jews currently live in more than 130 settlements built since 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The Palestinians want these territories, along with the Gaza Strip, for the establishment of a future Palestinian state.

International law regards both the West Bank and East Jerusalem as occupied territories and considers all Jewish settlement building activity there illegal.