Annexation will be a game-changer for Europe’s role in the Middle East

Annexation will be the greatest challenge that Europe has faced in the conflict since the oil crisis after the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

THE PALESTINIAN flag flies at a Palestinian Authority diplomatic post. (photo credit: REUTERS)
THE PALESTINIAN flag flies at a Palestinian Authority diplomatic post.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Full Israeli annexation means that there will not be a true peace between Israel and her neighbors. This will redefine Europe’s role in the region in a way not seen since the oil crisis almost 50 years ago.
It is still not certain whether Israel’s annexation of its West Bank settlements will go ahead as planned after July 1, as stipulated in the new Israeli government’s coalition agreement. Much can still happen in the region and in the world that may alter Israel’s plans.
However, if Israel goes ahead and annexes all its settlements in the 30% of the West Bank where they are located, it will be the greatest challenge that Europe has faced in the conflict since the oil crisis after the 1973 Yom Kippur War; a game-changing event that will redefine Europe’s relations with the entire region for decades to come, just like the oil crisis did.
The dependence of the European Union (then called the European Community) on oil was laid bare for all to see already after the 1967 Six Day War when the EC’s official bulletin reported that the EU depended for 80% of its oil consumption (48% of its total supply of power) on the Arab members of OPEC, a figure much higher at the time than both of the superpowers.
The oil dependency became an acute matter after the next war in 1973, when the oil-producing states instigated an oil boycott against countries deemed supportive of Israel, resulting in a price hike from $3 per barrel to nearly $12. Even if the boycott was short-lived, the price hike led to massive transfers of wealth from the industrialized world to the oil producers in the Middle East.
Oil and trade, together with the increased attention to the Palestinians living under Israel’s military occupation, completely redefined Europe’s relations with the Middle East after 1973: It led to much worse relations with Israel, much better relations with the Palestinians and other Arabs, and led the Israeli-Arab conflict to become the most important conflict for Europe.
A full annexation by Israel of all its settlements in the West Bank will be an event of the same magnitude as 1973, perhaps even bigger, because it will mean that there will not be a true peace between Israel and her neighbors in the foreseeable future. Full annexation will be a devastating blow not just against the relations between the EU and its member states vis-à-vis Israel, but against the EU’s relations with the Palestinian Authority as well, and the security architecture of the whole region.
It most likely will not lead to any harsher punitive actions against Israel in the immediate aftermath because there is no consensus and little appetite in the EU at the moment to confront either Israel or the Trump administration. Over the long run, however, it is difficult to see Israel becoming more deeply integrated into the EU after a full annexation. The EU has never recognized the annexations of the Golan Heights and east Jerusalem, and it is inconceivable that it will recognize the annexation of the West Bank settlements.
The EU’s relations with the Palestinians are perhaps even more complicated than those with Israel. Because of its enormous financial investment in the institutions for a future Palestinian state, the EU will be reluctant to pronounce the death of the two-state solution, especially before the PA officially does so.
The EU will also be reluctant to punish the Palestinians for something Israel has done by cutting aid too much. At the same time, the EU’s former high representative, Federica Mogherini, said just before she left office last year that if the prospect of a two-state solution disappears or no longer appears achievable, the EU and other donors would need to fundamentally review their support. That moment will arrive on the day after full annexation.
A full Israeli annexation will not mean peace but that the conflict will go on, and that the whole Levant will continue to be destabilized for the foreseeable future. It will inevitably mean that Europe’s obsession with the Israeli-Arab conflict will continue.

The writer is a political scientist at Linnaeus University, Sweden, specializing in EU-Israel/Palestine relations. His new book,
EU Diplomacy and the Israeli-Arab Conflict, 1967–2019, will be published by Edinburgh University Press in July. Twitter: @82AndersPersson