Israel summons EU official over support for illegal construction in Area C

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April 5, 2017 00:28

In the last few years, the European Union has provided modular housing for Palestinian and Beduin herding villages, particularly in the area of Ma’aleh Adumim and in the South Hebron Hills.

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EU funded structure in a Palestinian Beduin encampment outside of the Ma'aleh Adumim settlement in t

EU funded structure in a Palestinian Beduin encampment outside of the Ma'aleh Adumim settlement in the West Bank.. (photo credit:TOVAH LAZAROFF)

The Foreign Ministry said it “summoned” the EU’s Deputy Head of Mission Mark Gallagher on Monday to demand the EU’s stop its “obsessive” support for illegal Palestinian building in Area C.

In the last few years, the European Union has provided modular housing for Palestinian and Beduin herding villages, particularly in the area of Ma’aleh Adumim and in the South Hebron Hills.

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It has argued that such structures fall under the definition of humanitarian aid and that according to international law, the EU has a right to provide such housing to the Palestinians even if it runs counter to Israeli law.

The Foreign Ministry told Gallagher that Israel was governed by the rule of law and that the EU should respect such laws.
Demolition of illegal Palestinian structures funded by the European Union ( EU ) in the West Bank ‏(Video - B'Tselem)

“We asked him to stop being about obsessive about it,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon said Tuesday. “There are 32 humanitarian crises in the world, but [the EU] has chosen to disproportionately deal with what is happening in Area C, that without a doubt is not a humanitarian crisis.”

Just look at “what happened today in Syria,” Nachshon said. The EU Embassy in Tel Aviv had no comment with regard to Gallagher’s conversation with the Foreign Ministry.

The issue came to a head again after the Civil Administration issued demolition orders last month against 42 homes in the Beduin village of Khan al-Ahmar, east of Jerusalem, where EU member states Belgium and Italy have funded a school and helped build structures for the local population of about 150.

“The practice of enforcement measures such as forced transfers, evictions, demolitions and confiscations of homes and humanitarian assets [including EU-funded] and the obstruction of delivery of humanitarian assistance are contrary to Israel’s obligations under international law,” Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen said, with envoys from all EU member states present. “We therefore call on Israel, as the occupying power, to meet its obligations vis-à-vis the Palestinian population... completely stop these demolitions and confiscations and allow full access of humanitarian assistance.”

Faaborg-Andersen’s intervention was first reported by Haaretz.

The clampdown against Khan al-Ahmar, located in a sensitive area of the West Bank earmarked for settlement expansion, is the latest in a series of demolitions that have been roundly condemned by the EU and the UN.

The High Court of Justice is hearing cases against both Khan al-Ahmar and the adjacent school.

Israel says the demolitions are necessary because the building was carried out without a permit in Area C.

Both Israel and the Palestinians say the area around Ma’aleh Adumim will be part of their borders in any final status agreement for a twostate solution.

The EU says Israel rarely issues permits in Area C and is concerned that by blocking Palestinian development there, and demolishing structures that are built, it is actively undermining the viability of any future Palestinian state.

Figures from the United Nations office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs show that Israel has sharply stepped up demolitions in Area C over the past year.

While between 450 and 560 Palestinian structures were demolished each year from 2012-2015, the number jumped to 876 in 2016, and in January this year alone there were 121 demolitions. More than 1,200 people were displaced last year.

To underscore concern about the threat to Khan al-Ahmar, delegations from EU embassies have been visiting the site regularly. Officials hope public diplomacy might help secure Supreme Court support against the demolitions.

A similar situation exists in the Palestinian village of Susiya, in the South Hebron Hills, where the international community has also lobbied in support of the community.

“We’re not giving up,” said one EU diplomat, while acknowledging that it was an uphill battle to stop the demolitions. “We have to be realistic.”

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