Despite Support at EU, Austria Clarifies It Opposes Israeli Annexation

Austria and Hungary – who blocked anti-Netanyahu resolutions in the past –prevented a joint EU statement against annexation due to its timing, foreign minister says, but reiterated stance against annexation to Israeli counterpart

Noa Landau
Noa Landau
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Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg in Tyrol, Austria, August 27, 2019.
Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg in Tyrol, Austria, August 27, 2019. Credit: Andy Wenzel / Wikimedia Commons
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg warned Israel that annexation would be crossing a red line, despite the nation's repeated blocking of resolutions and decisions critical of Israel's policies in the European Union. 

Austria, along with Hungary, prevented a joint statement by the European Union against Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank due to its timing, Schallenberg told the Austrian daily Die Presse. "It was not the right moment on the day when [Israel's] new government was sworn in," he said.

However, Schallenberg added that "there are no doubts about the Austrian position regarding annexation" which he says he clarified to Israeli's newly appointed Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi

"The unilateral expansion of territory is against international law and numerous resolutions of the United Nations Security Council since 1967," said Schallenberg.

Last week the Hungarian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Péter Szijjártó also spoke to Ashkenazi and assured him that they will "continue to refrain from supporting statements that condemn Israel in both the EU and the United Nations." However, the statement did not mention the issue of Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank.

Ashkenazi's office denied the content of the conversation as described by his Hungarian counterpart, adding that the two ministers did not discuss the issues named in the Hungarian statement.

Earlier this month, Israeli ambassadors asked representatives of states that tend to support the Israeli position, including Austria, to thwart a joint decision or declaration against annexation, ahead of an EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting that discussed possible responses to Israeli moves toward annexation.

In the video conference, some European foreign ministers suggested that the EU begin mapping joint projects with Israel that could be damaged by unilateral steps that violate international law, alongside conveying positive messages to the new Israeli government about the possibility of "turning a new page" with Europe.

The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell reiterated it would not "recognize any changes to the 1967 borders unless agreed by Israelis and Palestinians." When asked about sanctions, Borell said that "there have been several proposals on the table," and that some member states have expressed support for sanction but "that doesn't mean we'll do it tomorrow."

Israel's Foreign Ministry blasted the EU for practicing "megaphone diplomacy" after Borell warned against West Bank annexation.

During the past two months the European Union's special envoy to the Middle East, Susanna Terstal, met with some EU states representatives to understand what their approach to Israeli annexation is and concluded that they have a growing demand from other countries to prepare a response document to deter Israel from unilateral measures.

Netanyahu said on Thursday that Palestinians residing in the Jordan Valley would not be granted Israeli citizenship after the region is annexed by Israel, but will remain citizens of a future Palestinian entity.

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