Now is “definitely not the time” for the European Union to heed calls to sanction Israeli settlers, the Hungarian foreign minister said in New York on Wednesday, arguing that such a step would create more tension and prolong counter-terrorism operations.
Speaking in connection with a debate on an EU proposal to sanction certain Israeli settlers and Hungary’s decision to block it, Peter Szijjarto said he had “never experienced such an overly emotional debate that devolved into personal attacks” over the last ten years like last weekend’s discussion on the Middle East in the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council.
“It’s clear that there’s a serious anti-Israel stance in Europe,” Szijjarto said, according to a ministry statement. “Many are backing it. We can see in western Europe as well as here, in the United States a steep rise in anti-Semitic crimes, a rise in anti-Israel demonstrations, and that modern time anti-Semitism is rampant. Exponentially so in western Europe.”
The minister said western European governments were pushing for “including certain Israeli citizens, so-called settlers in the sanction list”, adding that Hungary believed “that now is definitely not the time for this”.
He said Israel had been the victim of a brutal terrorist attack and was conducting counter-terrorism operations that also involved protecting civilians and freeing hostages. Moreover, everything possible has to be done to prevent escalation, he added.
“Now is not the time to sanction Israelis, because that can only generate more tensions, prolong the counter-terrorism operations and could result in more casualties,” Szijjarto said.
Europe, he said, should instead concentrate on making sure that the counter-terrorism operations succeed as quickly as possible and that life can return to normal in the Middle East. This, he said, had already begun with the Abraham Accords “but was interrupted by Hamas’s terrorist attack”.
“So, I would consider it a bad decision to sanction Israeli settlers right now,” Szijjarto said. “I don’t think this is the time for this. I’m glad that the Czechs are of a similar view, but I can honestly say that we aren’t influenced by other [countries’] positions this time, either.”