“It is time for sanctions,” says Petra De Sutter, Deputy Prime Minister for Groen. According to De Sutter, it is clear that Israel “doesn’t care” about the international demand for a ceasefire. That is why she is today imposing a number of sanctions on the table. If you don’t want to hear, you just have to feel. “We can no longer look away while children are being killed in Gaza every day.”
The Greens are demanding an import ban on products coming from Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. They also want an entry ban for “violent settlers” and people responsible for war crimes. At the international level, our country must, among other things, insist on the suspension of the Association Treaty between Israel and Europe, which regulates trade.
With their call, the Greens join Minister of Development Cooperation Caroline Gennez (Vooruit). Last weekend she advocated a boycott against Israeli products in supermarkets. The left-wing parties receive support from the ruling party CD&V. The Christian Democrats announced yesterday that they, like the Greens, are Belgian want a trade ban on products from the occupied territories.
This is how the public debate flows about Gaza to the federal government. The liberals in the government remain cautious towards Israel. “Sanctions are only useful if they are taken at European level or higher,” says Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib (MR).
Emotions have been running high in recent days. For example, MR chairman Georges-Louis Bouchez lashed out at Ecolo Minister Zakia Khattabi on Monday after she initially refused to call Hamas a terrorist organization. He previously showed up against Gennez. “Israel has the right to defend itself against terrorism. Sanctions are therefore not an option,” Bouchez emphasizes.
Bridge too far
But how should our country position itself? Prime Minister De Croo was critical of the Israeli warfare in Gaza on Monday. “If one bombs an entire refugee camp with the intention of eliminating one terrorist, then I don’t think this is proportionate anymore.”
At the Sixteen it sounds that Belgium is already among the champions of peace at European level in calling for a humanitarian pause in the fighting between Israel and Hamas. Imposing sanctions seems to be a diplomatic bridge too far for De Croo. However, there is talk of a possible note from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Israel, in which our country formally conveys its dissatisfaction with the situation in Gaza.
The question is whether the rest will accept this. “We cannot keep waiting for Europe,” says CD&V chairman Sammy Mahdi. “Parties that do not dare to take sanctions should not be surprised that people accuse us of applying double standards.”