Varadkar urged other EU leaders to call for a complete halt in the fighting, rather than a limited pause to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid.
Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar says the European Union has “lost credibility” because of its “inability to take a stronger and more united position on Israel and Palestine.”
Speaking at the start of a EU summit in Brussels focusing more on Ukraine, Varadkar said the EU should condemn “terrorism perpetrated by Hamas,” but also call for justice for the Palestinian people.
The dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, with close to 20,000 civilian deaths after a months-long Israeli military offensive, is prompting more European Union countries to support the idea of a humanitarian cease-fire in the war between Israel and Hamas.
Varadkar urged other EU leaders to call for a halt in the fighting, rather than a limited pause to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid.
“We’ve lost credibility at the global South, which actually is most of the world, because what is perceived to be double standards. And there’s some truth in that, quite frankly,” said Varadkar.
The 27 EU countries have long been divided in their approach to Israel and the Palestinians. At their previous meeting in October, EU leaders called “for continued, rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access and aid to reach those in need through all necessary measures, including humanitarian corridors and pauses for humanitarian needs.”
Varadkar said he hopes they will achieve “stronger wording” this time.
Before the summit, Varadkar and the prime ministers of Spain, Belgium, and Malta wrote to European Council President Charles Michel asking him to host a “serious debate” about the Israel-Hamas war and the “humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Gaza.”
“We must call urgently for all the parties to declare a lasting humanitarian cease-fire that can lead to an end of hostilities,” the four leaders wrote.
Israel has drawn international outrage and rare criticism from the United States over the killing of civilians. More than 18,400 Palestinians have been killed, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-controlled territory, which does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths.
Israel says 113 of its soldiers have died in the Gaza ground offensive it launched after Hamas raided southern Israel on 7 October, killing about 1,200 people – mostly civilians – and taking about 240 hostages, some of whom were freed in a short-lived ceasefire.
On Tuesday, 17 out of 27 EU countries backed a resolution at the UN General Assembly calling for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza. In October, only eight EU member states voted in favor of an earlier resolution which advocated for a truce instead of a cease-fire.
Varadkar insisted that a cease-fire could lead “to a new peace process and Palestinian statehood, which is the only way to secure justice and security for everyone living in the region.”
Spanish Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez, whose country currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU, backed his Irish colleague.
“Europe has to speak out … in a clear, strong, firm and unified voice,” he said.
Despite its limited political leverage, the EU is the world’s top aid supplier to the Palestinians. The EU has little influence over Israel – the United States is its staunchest ally – but remains the country’s biggest trade partner.