The European Union's recognition of Palestine as a state will become inevitable if Israel moves forward with its controversial plan to annex the occupied West Bank, Luxembourg's foreign minister said.
Speaking to German weekly Der Spiegel, Jean Asselborn called for a tougher EU stance against the Israeli government's plan to annex significant parts of occupied West Bank.
"To write reproachful letters would be a humiliation for the EU and would significantly weaken its credibility," Asselborn said.
He suggested more effective measures like economic sanctions or the recognition of Palestine as a state if Israel does not give up its plan, slated to begin July 1.
"The recognition of Palestine. This debate would gain a whole new dynamic; I would even consider it inevitable," Asselborn said, noting that such a decision would not require a unanimous decision by all 27 member states.
Annexation amounts to 'stealing'
So far, nine EU member states, including Sweden, Hungary, and Poland, have recognised the state of Palestine.
"If others were to follow, it would likely achieve much more than economic sanctions," he expressed.
Luxembourg's top diplomat said that Israel's plans to annex the West Bank are no different from Russia's move to illegally annex the Crimean Peninsula, and this necessitates the EU taking a stronger stance.
"I see no difference at all. Annexation is annexation. It is a gross violation of international law," he said.
Asselborn underlined that the UN Security Council has also taken a clear position, and declared Israeli settlements illegal in several resolutions.
"In the Middle East, which is strongly shaped by religion, one could also say that an annexation violates the seventh of the Ten Commandments: Thou shalt not steal. An annexation of parts of the West Bank would be just that: stealing," he said.
Illegal Israeli plan
Encouraged by the US President Donald Trump's so-called Deal of the Century, Israeli Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced last month that his government would formally annex the Jordan Valley and all illegal settlement blocs in the occupied West Bank.
The West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is seen as occupied territory under international law, therefore making all Jewish settlements there — as well as the planned annexation — illegal.
Palestinian officials have threatened to abolish bilateral agreements with Israel if it goes ahead with the annexation, which would further undermine the two-state solution.