Israeli efforts to stop illegal construction of Palestinian buildings by the EU in Judea and Samaria have been met with protest – by the EU.
The European Union (EU) mission in Israel on Wednesday expressed “deep concern” at what it termed as an “unprecedented number of demolitions and confiscations of Palestinian structures” built or funded by the Europeans in Israeli-controlled Area C in recent weeks, “including of EU donor-funded humanitarian aid” which, it claims, is consistent with international humanitarian law.
In a statement, the EU listed Israel’s recent operations against its illegal activists, including the dismantlement and confiscation of the school in Abu Nwar on February 21, which was funded by France, and the “virtual complete destruction” on February 15 of the community of Ain Rashash.
The EU claimed in its statement that since the beginning of the year, over 480 people have been displaced as a result of demolitions.
The EU called on Israel to “recall” the Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions of May 2012, July 2015 and January 2016, in which the EU called upon Israel “to meet its obligations regarding the living conditions of the Palestinian population in Area C as well as its strong opposition to Israel’s settlement policy and actions taken in this context, including demolitions and confiscation, evictions, forced transfers including of Bedouins and restrictions of movement and access.”
At issue, is the future of areas in Judea and Samaria known as “Area C,” the 60 percent of the territory that remained under full Israeli control as part of interim peace accords two decades ago. Its ultimate fate has been a major contention point in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
Israel seeks to keep large chunks of the area, which is home to 400,000 Israelis. Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett and other Israeli leaders have called to annex the area.
According to interim peace accords, any construction in Area C requires permission from Israel.
The EU runs dozens of projects in Area C, many of them undermining Israeli control of the area and which are designed to grab land and create facts on the ground ahead of a possible final agreement. The Israeli government views these efforts with great suspicion and often demolishes illegal projects.
In a meeting with foreign journalists last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the EU-funded structures “illegal.”
“They’re building without authorization against the accepted rules and there’s a clear attempt to create political realities there,” Netanyahu said.
Israel has repeatedly formally requested that the EU cease with their illegal actions, and has vowed to take action against any infringements on its sovereignty.
“In Area C [under Israeli sovereignty], intensive construction is being carried out on over 1,000 illegal buildings by different authorities, and among them international authorities that are asking for negotiations between the two sides,” Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said earlier this month.
“Activities in these territories that are not coordinated with Israel do not advance peace and coexistence between the two sides and give backing to the processes at the UN by the Palestinians, which further distances any chance of an agreement,” she added.