Top EU official says US should freeze arms sales to Israel

‘Netanyahu doesn’t listen to anyone,’ says Josep Borrell

The European Union’s foreign policy chief has said the United States and other countries should consider halting weapons sales to Israel because calls to protect civilians have been ignored.

Josep Borrell, the bloc’s most senior diplomat, said the EU was “extraordinarily concerned” about Israel’s plans to invade Rafah, the small southern area on the border of Egypt where much of the Palestinian population in Gaza has been driven. He said the time had come for countries to do something more than “just express concern”.

“Let’s be logical. How many times have you heard the most prominent leaders and foreign ministers around the world saying too many people are being killed?” he asked reporters, noting comments by US president Joe Biden that Israel’s offensive had been excessive.

“Well, if you believe that too many people are being killed, maybe you should provide less arms,” Mr Borrell said.


It comes after a court in the Netherlands ordered the Dutch government to halt the export of parts for F-35 fighter aircraft to Israel, saying there was a clear risk the parts were used in “serious violations of international humanitarian law”.

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu had ignored appeals from the international community, Mr Borrell said. “Everybody goes to Tel Aviv begging: please don’t do that, protect civilians, don’t kill so many... Netanyahu doesn’t listen to anyone. They’re going to evacuate. Where, to the moon?” he said.

“If the international community believes that this is a slaughter, that too many people are being killed, maybe they have to think about the provision of arms,” he said.

“This is a little bit contradictory to continue saying... please don’t kill so many. Stop saying please, and [do] something.”

The frank remarks came after EU development ministers met Mr Borrell and Philippe Lazzarini, the head of embattled United Nations aid agency Unwra, which runs schools and is the main provider of humanitarian aid in Gaza.

Some EU countries including Germany, the Netherlands and Austria suspended aid to Unwra after Israel accused 12 staff members of participating in the October 7th Hamas-led attacks that precipitated its invasion. Israel made fresh accusations over the weekend that a Hamas tunnel ran below Unwra’s headquarters.

Mr Lazzarini said all staff members concerned had been immediately fired due to the gravity of the accusations, but Israel had not yet shared any evidence. Asked about the tunnel, he called for the investigation of the targeting and use of Unwra buildings by both Hamas and the Israeli Defence Forces in the conflict, contrary to international humanitarian law.

The agency is due to have a negative cash flow of €40 million in March that would worsen in the following months due to countries suspending aid payments, Mr Lazzarini said.

Responding to calls from Israel for the dissolution of Unwra, he argued that it would be “extraordinarily short-sighted” because without school, young people would be more vulnerable to radicalisation.

“We have been constantly criticised by the Hamas, and seen as a cultural danger for them,” he told reporters, saying the curriculum was set by the more moderate Palestinian Authority and included teaching on human rights, gender equality and critical thinking.

Belgian development minister Caroline Gennez, who chaired the meeting, said there was “one very credible solution” for those who wanted to see Unwra dissolved.

“That’s a two state solution, so that basic services also in the Palestinian territories can be provided by a Palestinian state, aside an Israeli state,” she said.

  • Sign up for push alerts and have the best news, analysis and comment delivered directly to your phone
  • Find The Irish Times on WhatsApp and stay up to date
  • Our In The News podcast is now published daily – Find the latest episode here
Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary is Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times