Beduin shepherds walk past tents setup in the Jordan Valley near West Bank city of Jericho.
(photo credit: AFP PHOTO)
The French Foreign Ministry condemned the Civil Administration’s demolition of a newly constructed illegal modular school it had funded in an encampment of Jahalin Beduin in Area C of the West Bank, just outside of Jerusalem.
The school, which was funded by French humanitarian aid, had been placed in the encampment over the weekend and was immediately demolished before it could be used by pupils on Sunday morning.
The office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said that it had demolished four caravans that were placed illegally and without permits on Friday and were taken down Saturday night. The encampment, which is also unauthorized, is located in an unbuilt area of the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement known as E1.
Israel wants to relocate the encampment to the nearby village of Abu Dis, also in Area C.
“This is a project located in an area identified by the European Union as a key to the viability of the two-state solution,” the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement it released on Sunday.
“We deplore the consequences of demolitions and confiscations of humanitarian structures in the West Bank, affecting particularly weak populations, and call on the Israeli authorities to end it.”
Unauthorized EU construction in Area C is a source of friction between Israel and the EU, and a topic that came up in the phone conversation two weeks ago between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini that reset EU-Israel relations following the EU decision to label settlement products.
Following that decision in November, Israel suspended contact with the EU on issues relating to the Middle East diplomatic process.
Netanyahu released a statement following his conversation with Mogherini stating that “Israel opposes illegal construction in Area C and the parties agreed to continue the dialogue in this regard.”
One Israeli official said that Jerusalem has no problem with humanitarian projects in Area C, but it has to be coordinated with Israel, and cannot be done unilaterally to “make a political statement.”
“This was what was said to Mogherini,” the official said. “Ultimately the Europeans have to make a choice: if they want to make political statements they will not have a partner, but they will have a partner for humanitarian projects that are coordinated with us.”
Right wing politicians and the NGO Regavim have argued that the IDF has not clamped down enough on illegal Palestinians construction in Area C, including structures that were built with the financial support of the EU.
Left wing NGOs such as Rabbis for Human Rights have argued that Israel grants very few building permits for Palestinians in Area C of the West Bank.
Much of the EU support for Palestinian and Beduin building has gone to modular construction, which the European countries view as humanitarian assistance that is permissible under international law.
On Friday, the United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process Nikolay Mladenov spoke to the UN Security Council in New York against Israeli demolitions of Palestinian structures in Area C of the West Bank, as well as in east Jerusalem.
“During the past few weeks alone, Israeli authorities in Area C and east Jerusalem demolished 201 Palestinian- owned structures including 79 which were donor-funded.
“As a result, 320 people were displaced.
Since the beginning of 2016, Israel has demolished, on average, 29 Palestinian-owned structures per week, three times the weekly average for 2015. These actions run directly counter to the idea of peace,” he said.