The European Sanctions imposes sanctions for the first time over violence by radical Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank. The member states decided on the punitive measures in a written procedure, as several diplomats confirmed to the DPA news agency.

According to the information, the sanctions are aimed at people and organizations that are said to be responsible for violence against Palestinians in the West Bank. They are imposed using the EU sanctions instrument to punish serious human rights violations. People who are affected are no longer allowed to enter the EU or do business with EU citizens. In addition, their EU accounts and other assets must be frozen.

Attacks against Palestinians, like settlement construction in the West Bank, are seen as one of the obstacles to efforts to find a long-term peace solution in the Middle East conflict – especially after the Hamas massacre in Israel on October 7th. The EU has repeatedly condemned the acts of violence and the construction of settlements, but to date there has never been the necessary consensus for punitive measures. The sanction decision is therefore seen as a sign of a change of course in the EU’s Israel policy. Even if the punitive measures themselves have comparatively little impact on those affected.

Since the conquest of the West Bank in the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel has been expanding the disputed settlements. The number of settlers in the area that lies between Israel’s heartland and Jordan has now risen to about half a million. Including East Jerusalem, there are 700,000. The settlers live among around three million Palestinians. Jewish settlers also lived in the Gaza Strip until 2005, when their accommodation was evacuated by Israel.

The United Nations has classified these settlements as a major obstacle to a peace settlement because they leave little contiguous territory for the Palestinians in a possible two-state solution. Another reason for the tense situation is the Israeli army’s raids on West Bank cities due to attacks by Palestinians on Israelis.

With the sanctions, the EU is following the example of the USA. They have already imposed punitive measures aimed at extremist Israeli settlers. The USA accuses those affected, among other things, of taking part in violence against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank.

The names of those affected will soon be published in the EU Official Journal. According to information from the DPA, the first step involves four people and two organizations. Ideally, according to diplomats, the sanctions should lead to the Israeli judiciary becoming more committed to prosecuting violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinian villages and olive groves.

Only last week, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, again described developments in the area as extremely worrying. In the West Bank, Palestinians are constantly attacked by hundreds of Israeli settlers, often supported by the military, he said.

After the killing of a 14-year-old Israeli from a settler family, four Palestinians, including a child, were killed in acts of revenge. Israel, as an occupying power, is obliged to protect Palestinians from settler attacks and unlawful violence by security forces, Turk said.