Belgian PM Alexander De Croo Pushes for Import Ban on Israeli Products Amid Gaza Conflict

Sarhan Basem
credit: newarab

Brussels (Brussels Morning) – Belgian PM Alexander De Croo stated that he ‘’doesn’t think we can continue to regard Israel as a trading partner”. He declared he is looking for partners within the European Union to inflict sanctions on the country in response to the alarming situation in Gaza. “We cannot just stand by, use big words and just say, ‘We cannot let this happen.’”, he stated in remarks made to the Press.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said he wanted to send a clear message to Israel by halting trade with the Israeli-occupied territories, including the West Bank.

Does Belgian PM Seek EU Sanctions Against Israel?”

“If Belgium alone imposes these sanctions, trade routes will simply change,” he expressed.  “That’s why we’ve been discussing with other European countries for some weeks now how to tackle this problem, without making it loud and clear. Europe has an association treaty with Israel, which contains conditions relating to human rights. We have asked (EU foreign policy chief) Josep Borell) to investigate this point.” 

Will Belgium Lead EU in Stopping Israeli Imports?

Belgium currently carries the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. PM De Croo admitted he didn’t hold the exact view two months ago. “But since then, there have been 35,000 deaths, including 10,000 children. That’s not the only reason, but we Europeans will have to bear the outcomes. In ten years, we’ll be told: ‘You watched and did nothing’. And we have since seen the risk of escalation. Ships are being attacked in the Red Sea. And after the exchange of fire between Iran and Israel, we also had to hold our breath.”

The import prohibition from the ‘’occupied territories’’ would include agricultural products such as dates, olive oil and wine. Belgium is presently the EU’s 3rd largest importing country of Israeli products.

In early November, political parties such as Green, Vooruit and CD&V already urged an import ban on products from Israeli settlements in the West Bank, but Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib (MR) stated at the time, “Sanctions only make sense if they are taken at the European level or higher.”

Is Belgium Breaking Ties with Israeli Settlements?

“There are several countries that are open to our reasoning, these are countries that from the beginning had the same position as we had a few months ago,” De Croo said. “We are trying to go beyond that group of like-minded countries, I think it is logical for us to try to convince other countries of it.”

The Belgian Prime Minister emphasised that his country has been a trailblazer many times in recent months. “Months ago we also stated that in our country we wanted a prohibition on the entry of violent settlers, today the US has also taken that kind of measure.”

‘’In this conflict, I don’t want to have to say years later: I saw what happened, I talked about the steps that should be taken but didn’t make the effort to realize them.”

De Croo said he acknowledges that many people feel that “too little is being accomplished in this area and too late.” Pro-Palestinian groups and activists have been calling since the start of the conflict to boycott in-store Israeli products such as cosmetics, vegetables and fruits.

“I have ears for that, but Belgium alone would have little impact. We have always managed to take a position in recent months that was a huge step forward and then we have the other countries to convince and I am trying to do that here with an import ban on products from those occupied territories. “

On the other hand, The Belgian premier has been condemned by Jewish community leaders in the country who lamented his ”strong hostility” towards Israel. ‘’By abandoning Israel, you are leaving your Jewish community,’’  they stressed.

In a reply made public on Saturday, De Croo said: “I take issue with the strong hostility towards Israel that you attribute to me. I refute this assertion and even find it dangerous. Criticism of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s far-right government must be possible, without ever being reduced to criticism of Israel. I would go even further and say that we have to criticize a government where radical extremists advocate colonization and population replacement.”

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Brussels Morning is a daily online newspaper based in Belgium. BM publishes unique and independent coverage on international and European affairs. With a Europe-wide perspective, BM covers policies and politics of the EU, significant Member State developments, and looks at the international agenda with a European perspective.
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Sarhan Basem is Brussels Morning's Senior Correspondent to the European Parliament. With a Bachelor's degree in English Literature, Sarhan brings a unique blend of linguistic finesse and analytical prowess to his reporting. Specializing in foreign affairs, human rights, civil liberties, and security issues, he delves deep into the intricacies of global politics to provide insightful commentary and in-depth coverage. Beyond the world of journalism, Sarhan is an avid traveler, exploring new cultures and cuisines, and enjoys unwinding with a good book or indulging in outdoor adventures whenever possible.