“They can’t come and on the one hand blame Israel for creating facts on the ground and yet spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a comprehensive plan for illegal construction,” said Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations after the EU called on Israel to halt the demolition of illegal EU-funded Palestinian structures in Area C of the West Bank.
He said that while it was fine for the EU to build in Area C in coordination with Israel, “in the same breath, there’s a system that… like thieves in the night, they are building illegal buildings… to create territorial contiguity for the Palestinians. They are creating facts on the ground instead of pressuring the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.”
On Saturday, the EU issued a statement from the the spokesperson of the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU’s diplomatic corps, said that “in the past weeks there have been a number of developments in Area C of the West Bank, which risk undermining the viability of a future Palestinian state and driving the parties yet further apart.”
The EU mentioned in particular that “on 25 January Israel decided to declare 154 hectares of land near Jericho in the West Bank as state land, and according to the latest reports, decisions have been taken to permit further settlement expansion, involving more than 150 new residential units.”
It also cites the demolishon on 3 February of several Palestinian residential structures in the south Hebron hills. “We call on the Israeli authorities to reverse the decisions taken and to halt further demolitions,” the statement added, recalling that on 18 January EU Foreign Ministers confirmed “the EU’s firm opposition to Israel’s settlement policy and actions taken in this context, including demolitions and confiscation, evictions, forced transfers or restrictions of movement and access.”
While the EU claims that EU humanitarian activities are carried out ‘’in full accordance with international humanitarian law, with the sole aim of providing humanitarian support to most vulnerable people’’, Israel has repeatedly criticized the EU for funding constructions that are “illegal” and are aimed at creating “facts on the ground” in violation of the Oslo Accords.
According to the Israeli Army Radio, the EU has built over 200 illegal structures for Palestinians in Area C, which is under full Israeli civil and security control since the Oslo accords, in the last several years.
According to the report, the supervisory unit of the Civil Administration has located ten such structures in the past two weeks and even caught a truck carrying disassembled parts last week.
While the structures are easily dismantled in a short period of time, the Civil Administration has expressed concern about keeping up with the growing phenomenon.
The structures, which typically arrive disassembled in trucks in the middle of the night, are erected in the early morning with the goal of expanding existing Palestinian villages in the area.
Most of the buildings are branded with the EU’s symbol or that of an EU-affiliated organization.
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said in a statement: “All building in area C in Judea and Samaria requires the permission of the relevant authorities. The Civil Administration takes enforcement measures against illegal construction in accordance with the law.”
Jerusalem compares the EU moves to build these illegal structures to international criticism – even from the EU itself – of Jewish building in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).
“You come and complain about our unilateral steps to determine facts on the ground? Here you’re doing the exact same thing on the Palestinian side,” an Israeli government spokesman charged.