European Union Hypocrisy in Opposing Israeli Sovereignty Over Its Heartland | Opinion

In accordance with President Trump's "Deal of the Century," Israel is set to apply its civilian law and administration to 30 percent of Judea and Samaria (also known as the "West Bank") in the coming weeks. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's new unity government with former rival-turned-partner Benny Gantz is expected to begin implementation of the process on July 1.

European Union (EU) member-states have voiced vehement opposition to Israel's application of sovereignty over its own heartland. After the EU failed to adopt a collective measure against Israel, a new plan was pushed forward that would circumvent normal procedures requiring a consensus among EU members on foreign policy. This course of action would allow for individual member-states to issue sanctions against the Jewish state. French President Macron wrote a personal letter to Netanyahu warning him against annexation, while similar letters have also been sent by the prime ministers of Spain and Britain.

Israel cannot "annex" any part of Judea and Samaria, because that would require the country to impose its sovereignty over the territory of another state. By contrast, Israel would merely be exercising sovereign rights it has held for decades.

What's more, this European attitude against Israel is both hypocritical and patronizing, considering that EU members have not seen fit to apply sanctions in a similar manner to other contexts. For example, there are no restrictions on EU trade from Georgian territory that Russia occupies. At the same time, the Moroccan occupation of the Western Sahara region has yet to serve as an impediment to that country's free trade agreement with the EU.

But how can the EU be expected to consistently apply its standards on an international level, when member-states insist on preserving their own colonialist legacies?

Since 1815, Spain has occupied the Portuguese town of Olivenza despite signing a treaty agreeing to return control over it to Portugal. Spain has also maintained the last vestiges of its empire with the plazas de soberanía and the cities of Ceuta and Melilla, despite these areas being claimed by Morocco as its sovereign land.

Yet Spain's most flagrant violation of its neighbors' sovereignty came in 2017, when it refused to respect the autonomy of Catalonia and its desire to secede. In a referendum that year, an overwhelming 90 percent of Catalans voted in favor of independence. The Spanish government responded by arresting and imprisoning Catalan independence leader Jordi Sànchez. In October 2019, Sànchez was found guilty of sedition by the Supreme Court of Spain and given a nine-year prison sentence. Catalonia has yet to be granted independence.

Spain also happens to be ground zero for Europe's anti-Israel movement, where more than 50 Spanish cities and regions have passed motions condemning the Jewish state without a hint of irony. Yet this doesn't even begin to summarize the EU's hypocritical stance against Israel.

European Union flag in Brussels
European Union flag in Brussels Michael Jacobs/Art in All of Us/Corbis via Getty Images

France continues to maintain a powerful grip over its former empire on the African continent. In an effort to preserve the country's privileged geopolitical position, former French President Charles de Gaulle crafted the CFA franc monetary system. This legally obliged 14 newly-independent French African colonies to put 50 percent of their foreign currency reserves into the French treasury, with their currency being printed under the supervision of the central bank of France.

This exploitative arrangement has proven to be a major boost to French banks and the country, while depriving the former African colonies of their wealth and growth potential. Former French President Jacques Chirac admitted as much when he stated: "A big part of the money in our banks comes precisely from the exploitation of the African continent." Spain and France have also refused to recognize the demands of Basque separatists seeking to create an independent homeland that consists of territories within both respective countries.

Though Britain is no longer part of the EU, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has claimed that this move by Israel would be a breach of international law. Johnson reiterated his call for the formation of a sovereign Palestinian state, with Jerusalem serving as a shared capital with Israel. Yet these standards imposed on Israel have yet to be adopted by his own country. In the cases of Northern Ireland and the Falkland Islands, Britain did not hesitate to use military force to maintain its rule despite competing claims made, respectively, by Irish nationalists and Argentina.

Johnson also made it clear that his government would "never, never, never" allow any change to the British sovereignty of Gibraltar, despite competing Spanish claims to the territory.

If the EU does not commit itself or its neighbors to the standards it claims to uphold, what could be the reason for its counterproductive fixation against Israel? Europe would do well to apply the same rules to its own possessions before seeking to impose hypocritical ultimatums on the Jewish state.

Bradley Martin is the executive director for the Near East Center for Strategic Studies.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.