An EU-funded structure in the West Bank .
(photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
In an unprecedented move, a consortium of eight countries plans to demand that Israel compensate them for demolishing solar panels and modular Palestinian and Beduin classrooms the countries illegally placed in Area C of the West Bank.
“We have prepared a letter [to that effect] that we want to deliver in the framework of a démarche [diplomatic protest],” Belgian Ambassador Olivier Belle told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
He spoke after sections of the letter were published in Le Monde
, explaining that he was surprised its contents had been leaked to the press.
“It was an internal process. We are trying to fix a date to discuss this with the Israelis,” Belle said.
The countries involved – France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Luxembourg, Ireland and Denmark – are part of the West Bank Protection Consortium that funds Palestinian humanitarian projects.
The issue has been spearhead by Belgium, which was upset with Israel for the demolition in late August of two illegally built modular schools the consortium had financed as well as the confiscation of solar panels. It has asked Israel to repay €31,252 for the lost equipment.
“The practice of coercive measures such as demolitions and confiscations of humanitarian supplies as well as infrastructure for schools stands in the way of where the humanitarian aid [should go] and contradicts Israel’s engagement according to the international point of view... It causes suffering to Palestinian civilians,” the consortium wrote in its letter.
The demand for restitution is likely to increase tension between Israel and EU countries on the issue of illegal Palestinian construction in Area C of the West Bank, particularly for Beduin communities.
Israel holds that the EU is duty bound to respect the dictates of the IDF, which, under the Oslo Accords, is in charge of military and civilian affairs in Area C. The EU believes that the area is governed by international law and views its assistance as the type of humanitarian aid permissible under that law.
It began financing such projects in 2009 and has been increasingly blunt about its support for illegal Palestinian construction. It holds that the Palestinians and Beduin have a right to shelter and that Israel has not done enough to support Palestinian and Beduin development in Area C.
Israeli right-wing politicians persistently campaign for the IDF to do more to tackle illegal construction, which they believe is part of a Palestinian Authority campaign to increase its presence in Area C. According to an EU study on the matter, “between 2009 (when recording began) and 2017, some 400 EU/ EUMS-funded structures worth over €1.2 million have been demolished or seized” by Israel. “For the past years approximately only 1% of the building permits requested by Palestinians in Area C were granted,” the study added.