Von der Leyen does not speak for EU on Israel-Hamas conflict, foreign policy chief says

European Commission president offers Netanyahu full EU support during Israel visit

The rift at the top of the European Union over Israel and Gaza deepened on Saturday when foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Ursula von der Leyen did not speak for the EU on the matter. He said the EU’s foreign policy was determined by its member states rather than by the European Commission or its president.

“The common foreign policy of the European Union is an intergovernmental policy, it’s not a community policy. So the official position of the European Union with any foreign policy is being fixed by the guidelines of the high-level political decision in the European Union council, chaired by president [Charles] Michel, and by the Foreign Affairs Council ministers, chaired by me. And the position is clear that we certainly defend the right of Israel to defend itself against the attack that has been suffering, but as any right, it has a limit. And this limit is international law and international humanitarian law,” he said.

Mr Borrell was speaking in Beijing a day after Ms von der Leyen visited Israel, where she offered prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu the EU’s unconditional support in his response to last week’s killings by Hamas militants. The commission president made no public criticism of Israel’s warning to more than one million people in northern Gaza to leave their homes within 24 hours or risk death.

Mr Borrell said he agreed with United Nations (UN) secretary general António Guterres that the evacuation order was impossible to implement and would lead to a humanitarian crisis.


Mr Borrell said he shared the view of Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi that the only lasting solution to the conflict lay in a two-state solution but that the situation in Gaza called for a more urgent response. During a joint press conference with Mr Borrell on Friday, Mr Wang said that the root of the issue lay in the fact that the historical injustice suffered by the Palestinian people had not been rectified.

“Israel has the right to statehood, and so does Palestine. The Israelis have secured their survival, but who cares about the survival of the Palestinians? The Jewish people are no longer wandering around the world, but when can the Palestinian people return to their homeland? There are all kinds of injustices in this world, but the injustice against the Palestinians has been dragged on for over half a century, causing the pain of several generations. This cannot continue,” he said.

“Only with the full implementation of the ‘two-state solution’ can peace genuinely come to the Middle East, and Israel can achieve lasting security. The correct path to promote the ‘two-state solution’ is to promptly resume peace talks, and all peace-promoting mechanisms should play an active role.”

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times