Israel clamping down on ‘illegal’ EU building in West Bank
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Israel clamping down on ‘illegal’ EU building in West Bank

Europeans said helping Palestinians establish 'territorial contiguity' without Israeli permission; EU: Construction is 'humanitarian'

File: Soldiers from Israel's Civil Administration demolish a number of structures deemed illegal in the southern Hebron Hills on February 2, 2016. (Nasser Nawaja/B'Tselem)
File: Soldiers from Israel's Civil Administration demolish a number of structures deemed illegal in the southern Hebron Hills on February 2, 2016. (Nasser Nawaja/B'Tselem)

Israel is preparing to lock horns with the European community over what it claims is illegal European building in the West Bank aimed at helping the Palestinians to establish territorial contiguity.

Army Radio reported Thursday that Israeli inspectors were having difficulty keeping up with the pace of prefabricated homes which, it said, are delivered flat-packed in the dead of night to be assembled early in the morning.

Over recent years, the EU has built more than 200 structures in Area C, the radio claimed, territory which, according to the Oslo Accords signed in 1993 between the Israeli and the Palestinians, falls under full Israeli civil and security control. Ten prefabs arrived in the past two weeks alone.

Israeli forces demolished 24 out of 40 targeted structures on Tuesday in and around the village of Khirbet Jenbah south of Hebron — 10 of them EU funded — after the buildings were declared to be located in a military firing zone by the body that oversees civilian Israeli activities in the territories.

The demolitions came after a protracted arbitration battle failed to produce results, the Defense Ministry stated.

The High Court ordered an emergency stop to the demolitions until at least February 9 after being petitioned by a European group.

On Thursday morning, Israeli forces demolished five tents, three barns and an outside toilet it said had been built without permits in the village of Tammun in the northeastern West Bank, the Ynet news site reported.

Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, on Thursday accused the EU of hypocrisy.

“They can’t come and on the one hand blame Israel for creating facts on the ground and yet spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a comprehensive plan for illegal construction,” he told Army Radio.

He said that while it was fine for the EU to build in Area C in coordination with Israel, “in the same breath, there’s a system that… like thieves in the night, they are building illegal buildings… to create territorial contiguity for the Palestinians. They are creating facts on the ground instead of pressuring the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.”

Danny Danon. (Flash 90)
Danny Danon. (Flash 90)

 

Army Radio said many of the trailer-type buildings arriving in the West Bank carried the names of the EU or an EU-affiliated organization and were being delivered to areas such as the Jordan Valley and the hills leading down to Jericho.

Israeli supervisors usually identified and dismantled them quickly “but the phenomenon has broadened to the extent that the supervisors’ unit doesn’t always manage to keep up with the pace.”

Asserting that Area C is “part of the occupied Palestinian territory and part of any viable future Palestinian state,” the EU Mission in Israel said the union had stepped in on humanitarian grounds because of Israel’s failure to approve more than a handful of master plans that would allow the Palestinians to build themselves.

All EU activity in the West Bank was “fully in line with international humanitarian law” and formed part of efforts to promote economic development and improve the quality of life of Palestinian communities in Area C in the private sector, the environment and agriculture,” said the statement.

A Palestinian woman sits holding a child next to items salvaged from the remains of their home after it was demolished by Israeli bulldozers in a disputed military zone in the area of Musafir Jenbah, which includes several villages, south of the West Bank town of Hebron on February 2, 2016. / AFP / HAZEM BADER
A Palestinian woman sits holding a child next to items salvaged from the remains of their home after it was demolished by Israeli bulldozers in a disputed military zone in the area of Musafir Jenbah, which includes several villages, south of the West Bank town of Hebron on February 2, 2016. / AFP / HAZEM BADER

The EU worked with the Palestinian Authority “to develop Area C and support the Palestinian presence there” and consulted with the Israeli authorities “where necessary,” the statement added.

Israel has overall security and administrative responsibility in Area C, the EU Mission went on, but international law also obliges it to protect and facilitate development for the local population and to grant unimpeded access for humanitarian assistance.

Danon said Israel had “laws and norms about building anywhere in Judea and Samaria” — an alternate, Biblically inspired term for the West Bank — and that while demolitions of Jewish and Palestinian homes were “not pleasant,” they were carried out in accordance with the law.

Asked what Israel’s UN ambassador had to do with the European Union, Danon said the two institutions were connected by their hypocrisy and that the EU was constantly complaining to the UN about Israeli building in the West Bank.

He slammed UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon for comments last month attributing the terror attacks in the past four months, in which over 25 Israelis have been killed, to “Palestinian frustration.”

Danon said Ban had provided a “tailwind to terror and set a standard by which there’s terror in Israel that can perhaps be understood, as opposed to terror in the world for which there’s no justification… It’s simply hypocrisy on the part of the international community.”

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said in a statement: “All building in area C in Judea and Samaria requires the permission of the relevant authorities. The Civil Administration takes enforcement measures against illegal construction in accordance with the law.”

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