EU builds for Palestinians in Area C, FMs speak against annexation

Trump administration still looking to approve sovereignty moves this month, despite COVID-related delays.

A European Union flag flies outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, December 19, 2019. (photo credit: REUTERS/YVES HERMAN)
A European Union flag flies outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, December 19, 2019.
(photo credit: REUTERS/YVES HERMAN)
he European Union, Denmark and the Palestinian Authority signed an agreement on Tuesday to build 16 infrastructure projects for the Palestinians in Area C. The EU reaffirmed its opposition to Israel extending its sovereignty in that area.
Area C is the part of the West Bank under Israeli control, according to the Oslo Accords. Any construction, including structures built for Palestinians, must be approved by the IDF, which governs it.
The EU has funded many illegal Palestinian projects in Area C, built without the IDF’s approval, in recent years. This construction is part of a 2012 PA plan to create Palestinian contiguity in the area, surrounding and isolating Israeli settlements. The EU announced its support for the plan that same year in a document called “Land Development and Access to Basic Infrastructure in Area C.”
The new, €5.8 million EU-Denmark-PA agreement calls for completing 16 “social infrastructure projects,” including schools, roads, multipurpose buildings, reservoirs and others, in 15 localities in Area C to benefit more than 24,000 Palestinians.
The latest EU construction plan in Area C comes after repeated European warnings against Israel extending its law to parts of the West Bank, as described in US President Donald Trump’s peace plan.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly announced his intention to make sovereignty moves this summer, though he has not specified what they would be. The plan would allow Israel to apply sovereignty to 30% of the West Bank, including all Israeli settlements and the Jordan Valley, but Netanyahu and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz have discussed extending Israeli law to a more limited area.
In a statement on the construction plan’s announcement, EU representative to Ramallah Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff said: “The EU considers Area C an integral part of the occupied Palestinian territories... We will not recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by both sides, and we do not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the territories occupied since 1967.”
“We remain committed to a fair and negotiated two-state solution, which is the only way to achieve peace, development and security,” he added.
The EU diplomat’s comments came a day after 11 European foreign ministers asked EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell to compile a list of concrete steps they could take if Israel extends its law to any part of the West Bank.
Their letter asked for “clarity on the legal and political implications of annexation… as well as a list of possible actions in response to it, including the automatic triggers of all EU-IL agreements and the respective responsibilities of the [European] Commission.”
“Time is short… We are concerned that the window to deter annexation is fast closing,” the foreign ministers wrote, saying a list of responses would “contribute to our efforts to deter annexation.”
The foreign ministers of France, Italy, Netherlands, Ireland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Portugal and Malta signed the letter, Haaretz reported. Several diplomats confirmed the report.
The Trump administration is still interested in promoting annexation in the upcoming month, an administration official told The Jerusalem Post.
However, it is not expected to make a decision this week, the official said. The peace team, spearheaded by Special Adviser to the President Jared Kushner, is still discussing the details and the maps they would like to show Trump.
With the two countries currently focused on domestic issues, such as COVID-19, it would take a couple of weeks before Kushner’s team would take the matter to the president’s desk for a final decision, according to the official.
Sources close to Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin, a member of the joint US-Israel committee to determine where Israel would apply sovereignty, said he admitted that the US is not able to give any attention to the matter, Army Radio reported.
Levin’s office would not confirm the quote, but the sources said Israel would not act without US approval.
The Knesset Land of Israel caucus called for the Ministerial Legislative Committee to vote on Sunday to advance legislation that would allow for annexation of West Bank settlements.
Co-chairs Bezalel Smotrich (Yamina) and Haim Katz (Likud) had filed a bill on Monday that would allow for the Knesset to apply sovereignty to portions of Area C of the West Bank where the settlements are located.
Right-wing politicians and settler leaders do not want to wait. On Tuesday, Smotrich and Katz asked Knesset House Committee chairman Eitan Ginzberg (Blue and White) to fast-track the bill, which typically would need 45 days before coming before the Ministerial Legislative Committee.
“The window of opportunity for this historic act may close soon,” Smotrich and Katz said in a statement. “There is broad agreement, however, among the coalition and the opposition parties in the Knesset to advance the application of sovereignty.”
On Tuesday, Strategic Affairs Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen (Blue and White) said the security cabinet has not met to discuss the potential ramifications of extending Israel law in the West Bank.
“We need an organized process in which the security agencies’ analysis and the economic analysis will be heard,” she said at “The Price of Annexation” virtual conference held by business newspaper Calcalist. “Even something that is part of a plan that creates opportunities for the state must be executed at the best time so we will be exposed to minimal criticism.”
Israel should stop talking about plans to annex portions of the West Bank, which only needlessly inflame the region, MK Moshe Ya’alon (Yesh Atid-Telem) said at the conference.
“We have to be quiet and not place Israeli politics into the mix,” he said.
The only person who can determine whether there will be sovereignty is Trump, who “understands that there is a problem,” said Ya’alon, who is a former defense minister and former IDF chief of staff.