EU-Israel Arms Trade and the EU Common Position

July 2020

by Dylan Macchiarini Crosson

At the crossroads between trade and Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), the topic of EU arms exports to Israel remains underexplored despite the current Netanyahu-led coalition government’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank. Although arms transfers have implications for a successful Middle East Peace process and reflect upon Europe’s values-based agenda, they only seem to grab headlines when relations flare up and Israel adopts a more proactive security posture regarding Palestinians and the status of the OPT.
Yet, the EU is a significant source of Israel’s arms imports and an important destination for its high-tech and highly integrated defence industry. Therefore, the EU could successfully leverage its arms exports control regime as a dissuasive foreign policy tool or, at worst, in response to Israeli annexation. However, for the EU’s arms export control regime to become a permanent and reliable CFSP tool, member states must also show political courage and agree to update its legal framework.
This policy brief therefore outlines how Israel may be dissuaded from annexing the West Bank or what an ex post facto response may look like, along with proposals regarding how to improve the EU’s arms export control regime so that the EU may be more fit-for-purpose and values-oriented in its external relations.

This research paper was published in collaboration with Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS).


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