WHATEVER the outcome of the Gaza war as between Israel and the Palestinians, it is surely inconceivable that Israel can emerge from it scot-free in the wider international community. The Israelis are understandably sceptical about the willingness of Western nations to punish them except in the most trivial way for their many breaches of international law and agreements.

Until now the worst they have come to expect is reproving words. But after the senseless brutality of the Gaza action and the hypocritical assurances of humanitarian concern that have gone with it, the time must have come for a more serious and effective response from the West.

Whether or not this will be led by a new US administration we cannot yet know but there is every reason for the European Union to make its position clear on two issues. The first is arms sales to Israel which amounted to 200 million euros in 2007 of which more than half was for weapons and equipment supplied by France. Britain's share was four million, less than that of Germany and Romania. Britain claims to refuse licenses for arms that might be used “for external aggression or internal repression”; that would be a good principle for the EU as a whole to follow. The second issue is the ongoing talks between the EU and Israel for a closer trading relationship; the EU is already Israel's biggest export market and these talks should be suspended as an indication of the EU's dissatisfaction with Israel's actions in Gaza.


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