The EU is evolving in its response to the conflict between Israel and Hamas between double standards and balancing acts. The 27 reconfirmed the unconditional support for Benjamin Netanyahu from the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, by placing international law as a limit on self-defense after the attacks of October 7. After two weeks of siege on Gaza and with thousands of civilian victims, European leaders reached a minimum agreement to demand “humanitarian corridors and pauses” to allow aid to arrive. Now, they measured each word so as not to explicitly question Israel’s response.
“The European Council reiterates the importance of ensuring the protection of all civilians at all times in line with international humanitarian law. “It deeply regrets any loss of civilian life,” the 27 tepidly stated in their conclusions of the European Council.
Not snubbing Israel is one of the leitmotiv of the European heads of government, especially Germany and Austria. In fact, the evolution in the response has occurred as the United States has opened the way. When Joe Biden vetoed a resolution at the UN that called for a “humanitarian pause” in the face of the catastrophe in Gaza, the door was closed in the EU; but the call for “humanitarian pauses” was accepted when Washington made it.
What practically no one in the EU dares to do is condemn Israel’s actions and, despite the massacre of the civilian population, it is being given a vote of confidence. “Israel is a democratic State that is governed by very humanitarian principles and, therefore, one can be sure that the Israeli army will also observe the norms derived from international law in what it does. I have no doubt about it,” said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz this Thursday.
“To judge whether international law has been violated, first, the country itself, in this case Israel, has to ensure that it does everything possible to be within international law and that is what we ask of it,” said the Dutch prime minister. , Mark Rutte: “This is what I think Israel does because it is a democratic country.”
While no one hesitates to condemn Hamas’ terrorist attacks and define the capture of hostages as “war crimes,” very few voices have pointed out Israel for failing to comply with international legality.
Yes, the high representative, Josep Borrell, did so when he assured that “some decisions are contrary to international law” in reference to the siege of the Gaza Strip. The president of the European Council, Charles Michel, has spoken in similar terms. “A total siege is not in accordance with international law,” he said after the meeting with the leaders. But in writing, not a word about it.
“Whatever the atrocities, Israel has the right to defend itself, but there can never be an excuse to cut off people’s needs to survive. The blockade of Gaza is unacceptable and should stop,” said the Belgian, Alexander de Croo. Pedro Sánchez, who, along with Ireland, has been the most vocal in supporting Palestine, spoke along the same lines.
The Spanish president, like Giorgia Meloni or the Greek Kyriakos Mitsotakis, attended the Peace Summit in Egypt in a gesture to the Arab world at a time when the West is receiving criticism from that part of the world for the “silence international” regarding Tel Aviv’s violence against the Palestinian population. Several European heads of government, such as the German, the Dutch or the Dutch, have gone to Israel to make their unwavering support clear.
“All this puts pressure on Israel,” say government sources, who try to highlight the evolution in the response that has occurred in recent days. These same sources maintain that requiring Israel to allow access to humanitarian aid is somehow implicitly acknowledging that it is failing to comply with basic humanitarian standards. The truth is that the word “condemnation” disappeared from the final conclusions regarding the drafts when it could be attributed to Israel’s actions.