BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - DECEMBER 14: The Taoiseach of Ireland Leo Varadkar arrives at the European Council summit at Batiment Europa on December 14, 2023 in Brussels, Belgium. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

By P.K.Balachandran Colombo

December 16:

The worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza marked by an unchecked slaughter of innocent Palestinians by Israeli bombardment has created sharp cleavages in the European Union (EU) and put US President Joe Biden in a bind. Since October 7, Israel has killed 18,000 Palestinians in Gaza and Israeli settlers have been attacking Palestinians in the West Bank with impunity as the international community hesitates to take concrete action to stop the atrocities.

The Gaza crisis has divided the European Union (EU). This was highlighted by the Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar when he lambasted the union for not uncompromisingly calling for a ceasefire. A minority had prevented the EU from calling for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza at a summit of leaders in Brussels on Friday, despite an “overwhelming majority” of countries now being in favour, Varadkar told reporters in Dublin. In an unusual move, the EU leaders decided to make no mention “at all” of the conflict in their joint conclusions, with several countries feeling that if there was no reference to a ceasefire it was better not to say anything at all, the Irish Times said in its report. “My view and the view of others, is that if we couldn’t get unanimity on calling for a ceasefire, there was no point in coming up with some sort of interim language – ‘rolling truces’ or ‘on and off pauses’,” the Irish PM said.

“Those of us who are in the majority who want there to be a ceasefire didn’t feel we should have to wait for the Americans to call for a ceasefire before Europe does,” he added. Against Hamas and Israeli Settlers However, the EU urged sanctions against Hamas and aggressive Israel settlers in the West Bank. It called for sanctions against people who give financial support to Hamas, and asked foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell to draw up a list of extremist Israeli settlers to be sanctioned over violence against Palestinians in the West Bank. “If the EU is unable to unanimously agree on imposing sanctions on Israeli settlers, Ireland will go ahead with a group of other European countries in jointly adopting them, Varadkar had warned. The US and Britain have already imposed sanctions, he pointed out. EU Losing Credibility The Irish PM warned EU leaders of damage to the group’s credibility among young people and people around world, as a result of its stand on Gaza. “We’ve lost credibility with the Global South, which actually is most of the world, because what is perceived to be double standards. And there’s some truth in that, quite frankly,” he told reporters in Brussels ahead of the EU summit. Varadkar called for “a two-state solution which the European Union should be pushing and demanding, not just calling for a ceasefire.”

Settler Violence Condemned Ireland joined the rest of the European Union, Australia, Canada, Switzerland and the United Kingdom in issuing a statement expressing grave concern about the record number of attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank. Since the start of October, settlers have committed more than 343 violent attacks, killing eight Palestinian civilians, injuring more than 83, and forcing more than 1,000 Palestinians from their homes. “We strongly condemn the violent acts committed by extremist settlers, which are terrorising Palestinian communities. We reiterate our position that Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are illegal under international law and remind Israel of its obligations under international law, in particular Article 49 of Geneva Convention IV,” the statement said. “This rise in extremist settler violence committed against Palestinians is unacceptable. Israel, as the occupying power, must protect the Palestinian civilian population in the West Bank.”

Varadkar said that violence “is being perpetrated by wild Israeli settlers who are trying to push Palestinians off their land”. UNGA Vote: India Falls in Line At a vote in the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, Ireland was among 17 EU member states to vote in favour of a ceasefire. Eight countries abstained, while Austria and Czechia voted against. India, changed its policy of being neutral on the Gaza crisis in October, and voted for the resolution on Tuesday, perhaps not wishing to be isolated in the Global South camp. Biden in a Bind Meanwhile, in the US, President Biden found himself in a bind on the Gaza crisis, with the Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu not listening to his calls for restraint.

“US efforts to show it retains significant influence over the Israeli government were dealt a double blow on Thursday when the Israeli defence minister said it would take months to complete the task of rooting out Hamas, and a leaked US intelligence assessment revealed up to 45% of the 29,000 air-to-ground munitions that Israel has dropped on Gaza since 7 October have been unguided “dumb bombs”, wrote Patrick Wintour in the Guardian. “The predictions of a months-long campaign were delivered on camera by Yoav Gallant to a stony-faced Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser, who had arrived in Israel to convey a message that its campaign needed to change – and preferably be wrapped up in weeks. They were later reinforced by the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who said Israel would not stop until complete victory,” Wintour noted. The leak about the munitions contradicted claims by the US State Department that it had no concerns and no assessment whether Israeli bombing could be in breach of international humanitarian law.

“More broadly the two issues highlight questions about the nature of the control America has over Israel’s political and military response to Hamas’s bloody attacks of 7 October. Until a few days ago, the preferred White House narrative has been this is an utterly justified war of self-defence with an obtainable objective, but it has been necessary for the US to hug a traumatised Israeli government close so best to retain its trust, guide its decision-making and prevent regional escalation.” “The US State Department at its regular briefings has always been keen to cite examples of how Israel is listening and acting upon US advice – whether it is on humanitarian aid access points, safe zones, a modified bombing campaign or plans for what comes after. But that narrative is starting to fray at the edges, as suppressed differences emerge between the US and Israel, not just over methods, but objectives,” Wintour said.

Joe Biden has called his commitment to Israel “unshakeable”, but has added: “They have to be careful. The whole world’s public opinion can shift overnight. We can’t let that happen.” On Tuesday, in what was interpreted as some of his most pointed comments about Israel’s conduct of a war, Biden reportedly said that Israel risked losing international support because of its “indiscriminate bombing” in Gaza. Biden also criticised Netanyahu’s far-right government, which he said does not “want anything remotely approaching a two-state solution,” Wintour noted. Netanyahu and his government are opposed to a two-state solution, which the US favours. With the US dithering, the EU divided, and Netanyahu unrelenting, the slaughter in Gaza and displacement of Palestinians from the West Bank, seem destined to continue indefinitely.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here