Israel’s foreign ministry has warned the EU against flouting Israeli law by funding illegal Palestinian building in Area C of the West Bank.
“We bring this issue up in almost every conversation we have with the Europeans,” said Aviv Shir-On, the foreign ministry’s Deputy Director General for European Affairs.
He spoke on the issue during meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee sub-group on Judea and Samaria (West Bank) this week.
“We won’t accept illegal building,” Shir-On said. The Europeans have been informed about Israel’s stance on this issue, he added.
“We’ve told them they have to take into account, that such construction can be destroyed,” Shir-On said.
But he has assured the European officials, Shir-On said, that they will be notified before any demolition occurs.
Under the 1993 Oslo Accords – signed not only by Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but by the EU itself, among other parties – while the PA maintains full or partial control over Areas A and B of Judea-Samaria (“West Bank”), Israel maintains exclusive military and civilian authority over affairs in Area C, including planning and construction.
Starting in September the EU, the Foreign Ministry and the IDF will meet regularly to tackle the issue, Shir-On said. He explained that both individual European governments and the EU were funding illegal Palestinian projects.
The Jerusalem Post quoted the EU’s reponse issued by its embassy in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, saying that all its activities in the West Bank are “fully in line with international humanitarian law.”
“While Israel has overall security and administrative responsibility in Area C, under international law Israel also has the obligation to protect and facilitate development for the local population, and to grant unimpeded access for humanitarian assistance. The EU Is providing humanitarian aid to allow the residents to meet their most basic needs of shelter and sanitation,” the EU said.
Hinting that the fault was Israel’s for failing to provide sufficient legal paths to ensure housing for Palestinians, the EU wrote in its response that “to date only a handful of the proposed [housing] plans have been approved.”
“The EU Is providing humanitarian aid to allow the residents to meet their most basic needs of shelter and sanitation,” it said.
“At their last meeting in July the EU Foreign Ministers unanimously voiced their strong opposition to Israeli demolitions and confiscations, including of EU-funded projects, and called for a fundamental change of Israeli policy to enable accelerated Palestinian construction, as well as social and economic development in Area C,” the EU embassy said.
The issue of EU funded illegal Palestinian building, was first raised in the last few years by the non-governmental group Regavim, which monitors such activity and gave a power point presentation at Tuesday’s meeting. It has estimated that there are close to 1,000 such EU funded structures in the West Bank, which are mostly modular construction with cement floors.
The EU’s involvement in illegal Palestinian building is obvious to the naked eye, because it often places a large round blue EU logo on the projects its sponsors.