Israel chastised the European Union this week for its “obsessive” focus on the Jewish state after the union criticized demolitions in a Palestinian Bedouin village in the West Bank.
During a meeting of EU envoys with the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s new director general Yuval Rotem last week, the EU’s ambassador to Israel said the demolitions of 42 buildings in Khan al-Ahmar — some of which were built with EU funding — were in violation of international law.
“The practice of enforcement measures such as forced transfers, evictions, demolitions and confiscations of homes and humanitarian assets and the obstruction of delivery of humanitarian assistance are contrary to Israel’s obligations under international law,” envoy Lars Faaborg-Andersen said, according to Reuters.
“We therefore call on Israel, as the occupying power, to meet its obligations vis-a-vis the Palestinian population…completely stop these demolitions and confiscations and allow full access of humanitarian assistance.”
In response to the public reprimand, the Foreign Ministry on Monday summoned Faaborg-Andersen’s deputy Mark Gallagher and gave him his own dressing down. The ministry’s EU director Avivit Bar-Ilan told Gallagher the buildings in question were built illegally and that “illegal construction will be dealt with according to law,” according to a report in daily Haaretz Tuesday.
Bar-Ilan told Gallagher Israel was “perplexed by the EU’s obsessive involvement in the matter.”
“There are 32 humanitarian crises around the world, but the EU chooses to disproportionately focus only on what is done in Area C of the West Bank, which are most definitely not suffering a humanitarian crisis,” she reportedly said.
Israel maintains civil and security control of Area C, which comprises some 60 percent of the West Bank.
The United Nations has also criticized the demolitions, with the humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, Robert Piper, saying the village was “one of the most vulnerable communities in the West Bank struggling to maintain a minimum standard of living in the face of intense pressure from the Israeli authorities to move.”
Israel says the buildings were built without permits, but the UN and EU says such permits are all but impossible to obtain for Palestinians.
A number of traditionally nomadic Bedouin communities are based east of Jerusalem, where rights groups fear demolitions could eventually clear the way for further Israeli settlement construction.
This could partly divide the West Bank between north and south while further isolating the territory from East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians see as their future capital.
The UN says there are 46 communities in the central West Bank at risk of forcible transfer, with approximately 7,000 residents.
AFP contributed to this report.