Israel With Sanctions
By Phil Reeves, Justin Huggler, and Paul Waugh
The Independent - London
8 April 2002
The European Union is preparing billion-dollar sanctions against
Israel if Ariel Sharon continues to defy international opinion and
reject calls for an end to his invasion of the Palestinian territories.
European governments appear prepared to turn to economic weapons
after the Israeli Prime Minister defied President Bush's call at
the weekend for a withdrawal "without delay". Mr Sharon
pledged only that the offensive would be accelerated, not ended.
Josep Pique, the Spanish Foreign Minister, revealed yesterday that
European foreign ministers had discussed sanctions at emergency
talks in Luxembourg last week and would discuss punitive measures
at their next meeting.
"It is a possible scenario ... Some countries are in favour
of introducing sanctions very, very soon; others are more reluctant.
So we have to discuss it," Mr Pique said.
Louis Michel, the Belgian Foreign Minister, said the EU might rethink
trade ties with Israel. The EU has donated millions of pounds of
aid to the Palestinian Authority only to see infrastructure, such
as the new airstrip in Gaza, destroyed by Israeli troops.
Europe is one of Israel's biggest trading partners and sanctions
such as suspending a long-standing "association agreement"
and the trade concessions it gives Israel would be a blow to relations
The EU threat came as Israel faced demands from international aid
and human rights organisations to stop the military offensive, amid
warnings that a humanitarian crisis was in the making.
Peter Hansen of Unwra, the United Nations relief agency for Palestinian
refugees, said his organisation was receiving reports of "pure
horror" from refugee camps in Jenin and Balata in Nablus, which
have been invaded by Israeli troops for the second time in a month.
Mr Hansen said Israeli combat helicopters had been strafing residential
The scale of the killing was unclear yesterday as fighting raged
in Nablus and Jenin, not least because Israel has barred the media
from the areas invaded by its forces, where more than 1.5 million
people are confined to their homes by an army curfew.
Lieutenant-General Shaul Mofaz, the Chief of Staff of the Israeli
armed forces, told a cabinet meeting that 200 Palestinians and 11
Israeli soldiers had been killed since the military operation began
11 days ago, in the name of rooting out Palestinian militants.
The army claimed that the bulk of the Palestinian dead were armed
fighters but there are countless reports of civilian victims. An
estimated 1,500 Palestinians and 143 Israeli soldiers have been
In Texas, after a weekend summit with President Bush, Tony Blair
said Britain and its European partners were prepared to send peace
monitors to help to kickstart the political process an idea Israel
has in the past rejected.
Mr Bush telephoned Mr Sharon at the weekend for the first time
since February and called for a withdrawal "without delay".
Significantly, however, the American President did not demand a
timetable for an Israeli pullback.
Colin Powell, his Secretary of State, embarks on a high-profile
diplomatic mission to the Middle East today but appeared to allow
Mr Sharon some leeway by timing his arrival in Jerusalem for Thursday
at the earliest, possibly to coincide with an Israeli withdrawal.
Asked whether Mr Bush had given Mr Sharon a deadline, General Powell
said: "The President doesn't give orders to the sovereign prime
minister of another country."
Mr Blair also announced that the diplomatic offensive would include
a scheme to endorse in a new UN resolution on the Middle East the
peace plan put forward by Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
The Prime Minister said a ceasefire had to be agreed immediately.
"In monitoring any such ceasefire and in ensuring the Palestinian
Authority genuinely take action against the terrorists, we and others
stand ready to help in any way we can," he said.
With Spain holding the presidency of the EU, Mr Pique is one of
its most senior foreign policy spokesman and he made clear that
sanctions had already been discussed in private by the 15 nation
"We discussed the possibility [of sanctions] at the last general
council in Luxembourg," he said. "It's a possible scenario."
Mr Sharon showed no sign yesterday of heeding warnings that the
massive offensive by his armed forces is simply laying the ground
for more Palestinian violence and suicide attacks.
The point was underscored by a warning from Hamas - responsible
for many of the suicide attacks - vowing to avenge the recent assassination
of several of its leaders with a response of "a new type and
new colour never seen before".