Yesterday morning, the Jerusalem Municipality demolished an illegally built structure just moments away from the Hebrew University campus. Not only was this structure built without any planning permission or permits, it was built by the European Union and was even adorned with a EU flag.
Earlier this month, Regavim unveiled a report showing that the European Union is actively building illegal Palestinian outposts in and around Jerusalem to the detriment of Israel. The news came as a shock to millions of Israelis, who learned that hundreds of buildings bearing EU flags were popping up across Jerusalem and Area C of Judea and Samaria, which according to the Oslo II Accords is under total Israeli control.
Moments after the news went public, an order was given by the prime minister to deal with these structures irrespective of who built them. It would seem that after years of research into this new phenomena, the Israeli government is finally taking baby steps to restore the rule of law.
The illegal buildings were predominantly constructed to settle nomadic tribes, who previously wandered freely according to the season. Instead, these nomads have been turned into political pawns of the EU, the motivations of which are aimed at strengthening the Palestinian Authority’s position in Area C and Jerusalem at the expense of Israel.
Different governments deal with the issue of nomadic groups in different ways. In recent years, the Roma were expelled from their illegal communities in France and Italy, to less developed EU countries such as Romania, Bulgaria and Kosovo. In October 2013, the European Court for Human Rights ruled that since 2003, by deporting the Roma, “France has been in continuous violation of Article 8 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights.”
Although certain nations viewed this conduct as injurious and inappropriate, action was limited to the ruling of the European Court for Human Rights and no alternative solution for the Roma was forthcoming. More importantly no other government took matters into their own hands and funded the building of dwellings in the suburbs of Paris as a “permanent solution” for the Roma.
Unfortunately, this is exactly what the EU has been doing in Israel, as revealed by the recent report by Regavim.
The comprehensive report exposes the extent of the EU’s complicit behavior and proves that the EU has illegally built more than 400 structures, displaying the EU flag, on public land, in conjunction with the PA.
The involvement of the EU and European states in the Israeli-Arab conflict, and their almost automatic siding with the Palestinian-Arab position, is nothing new. However, in recent years, instead of just expressing political views and partaking in legitimate activity within the diplomatic sphere, the EU has initiated illegal activities as part of the PA’s strategy to create a Palestinian state de facto, while avoiding the need for negotiating with Israel.
The latest 2014 EU “Funding Decision” document states its goal clearly – that the EU is taking an active part in the de facto annexation by the PA of Area C: “The European Union and Palestinian Authority are actively promoting planning and construction in Area C, which, if successful, will pave the way for development and expansion of the Palestinian Authority’s control over Area C.”
The flagship joint venture of the PA and EU is, without a doubt, the establishment of a network of outposts in the Adumim region connecting their illegal building program in Jerusalem to Jericho. This includes the strategic E1 area, where due to international pressure Israel’s plans for the development of Mevasseret Adumim have been repeatedly delayed.
The Adumim region is semi arid, with little rainfall; the traditional population comprised wandering nomads who grazed sheep in accordance with the season, living in temporary tents and then moving on.
However, over the past decade, the PA has manipulated their existence by supplying water to the area all year round. The temporary tents have been replaced by pre-fabricated structures funded, and even built by, the EU, in conjunction with established NGOs like Oxfam.
The EU is not only breaking Israeli law, it is in blatant violation of its own founding treaty by not respecting the rule of law of a sovereign country. They have disregarded the Oslo II agreement (which gave Israel full control of Area C) by building without proper planning process, and are creating environmental damage to a unique ecosystem.
Regavim reported the existence of these illegal buildings to the authorities, but due to the presence of the EU symbol and the threat of action against Israel by the EU, the government has yet to take action. In other words, the EU has found an effective strategy to ensure that the PA succeeds in its land grab: effectively applying diplomatic immunity to its illegal building.
The Regavim report demonstrates the EU’s direct involvement in brazen and defiant illegal activities, the entire purpose of which is to create facts on the ground, unilaterally, in favor of the PA. In a show of unprecedented hypocrisy, EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini continuously condemned Israel for taking unilateral steps in and around Israel’s capital, Jerusalem, yet the EU cares little for its own founding treaty when it comes to ensuring the PA establishes control over Area C and neighborhoods in Jerusalem.
If nothing is done to stop this blatant abuse of the law and total disrespect for Israel’s sovereignty, we should not be surprised to see EU flags flying in the Negev and the Galilee as we have seen in Jerusalem and its environs.
We commend the Jerusalem Municipality on its swift implementation of the law and expect similar action across Area C of Judea and Samaria by the Civil Administration. For its part, Regavim intends to take its research directly to the European Parliament, the European public and if necessary the EU ombudsmen to ensure Israel is treated with the respect it deserves.The author is International Relations director of Regavim, a research-based legal advocacy organization, dedicated to ensuring responsible, legal and accountable use of Israel’s national land. For more information, visit www.regavim.org.il/en.