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EU faces 'difficult' choice between support to rule of law or support to Israel - Borrell

EU top diplomat Josep Borrell said Friday 24 May that the EU faces a choice between support to rule of law and support to Israel
EU top diplomat Josep Borrell said Friday 24 May that the EU faces a choice between support to rule of law and support to Israel Copyright Virginia Mayo/Copyright 2017 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Virginia Mayo/Copyright 2017 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Mared Gwyn Jones
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The EU must define its stance on the International Court of Justice's call on Israel to halt its Rafah offensive, Borrell said.

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The European Union's foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, has said that the bloc faces a "difficult" choice between its support for the rule of law and its support for Israel, just minutes after the ICJ ruled Israeli forces should halt their offensive in Rafah.

Speaking during a European University Institute (EUI) event in Florence, Borrell said: "Let's see which is going to be the action of the European Union to the ruling of the International Court of Justice that has been issued today, which is going to be our position?"

"We will have to choose between our support to the international institutions and the rule of law, or our support to Israel, and both things is (sic) going to be quite difficult to make compatible," he added.

It came just minutes after the Hague-based top UN court called on Israel to "halt its military offensive in Rafah", citing that the Palestinian people were at an "immediate risk". 

The UN estimates that some 1.4 million Palestinians are sheltering from war in the southern Gazan town, which Israel claims is Hamas' last stronghold.

Borrell also acknowledged that the EU's decision-making when it came to its response to the war in Gaza had been too sluggish due to deep rifts between EU capitals' stance on the conflict. 

He called for a change to the EU's decision-making processes on foreign policy, which requires the unanimous backing of all 27 leaders. 

Hungary has notably blocked or delayed key EU initiatives in response to the war, including sanctions on violent Israeli settlers as well as a joint communication calling on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to abandon plans to invade Rafah.

Borrell's opening speech was also interrupted by pro-Palestinian protesters who slammed the EU's response to the devastation and loss of life in Gaza, to whom the EU's top diplomat responded: "I understand perfectly the concern being expressed."

Recognition of Palestine is 'contrary' to supporting terrorism

Reacting to the scathing Israeli criticism of Spain, Ireland and Norway's decision to recognise the State of Palestine, announced Wednesday, Borrell firmly rebuked foreign minister Israel Katz's accusation that the move would send a message that "terrorism pays."

"For me one thing is clear, recognition is not supporting Hamas," Borrell said. "And on that, I have to really contest the positions expressed by the Israeli government saying that recognition is a gift to Hamas, or supporting terrorism. Just on the contrary."

"It's unfounded, completely unfounded and unacceptable to say that recognition - be or not counter-productive - is a matter of giving gifts to Hamas or expressing anti-Semitism, nothing of that."

He affirmed that the recognition was designed to bolster the EU's support to the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, seen as a counter-movement to Hamas in the Palestinian territories.

He described the Palestinian Authority as the "nucleus of a future possible Palestinian state."

Borrell named Slovenia as one of a group of EU countries that could follow Spain and Ireland's path, but acknowledged that other member states believe that the recognition comes at a "counterproductive" moment.

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