Continuing their tradition of supporting illegal Palestinian construction in areas under Israeli control, several EU countries rebuked the High Court decision to destroy Khan al-Ahmar, which Israel says is situated in a hazardous location.
By: United with Israel Staff and AP
Eight European Union (EU) nations are underlining their opposition to Israel’s planned demolition of the illegal Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, located east of Jerusalem, and are urging its government to reconsider the decision.
The statement was read by Dutch Ambassador Karel Van Oosterom outside the UN Security Council on Thursday. It rebuked the Israeli High Court’s Sept. 5 decision to demolish the desert community.
In May, the High Court of Justice ordered the destruction of Khan alAhmar when it agreed with the Civil Administration that no permission had been granted for building the structures that house some 180 residents.
The location of the illegal structures is hazardous due to its proximity to a major highway. Khan al Ahmar is adjacent to and overlooks the road that runs east-west and connects Jerusalem with the Jordan Valley.
Israel has offered alternative sites for the residents with an emphasis on keeping the community intact, but the Bedouins have rejected all of them.
‘This is Not Against Them, This is For Them’
“We are doing them a service,” said Shani Sasson, a spokeswoman for COGAT, the Defense Ministry body responsible for Palestinian civilian affairs. This is not against them, this is for them.”
She said the tribe squats on land that is not safe for living and that the Israeli government has prepared an alternative site just a few kilometers (miles) away with sewage treatment and access to water and electricity. Israel has invested over $2 million in the relocation project, she added.
The eight EU countries that issued the statement Thursday are France, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany and Italy. They say they “will not give up on a negotiated two-state solution with Jerusalem as a capital” of both Israel and a new Palestinian state.
The statement appeared to be an implicit slap at US President Donald Trump’s declaration in December that recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
The EU has a long history of taking the Palestinian side concerning illegal construction. It issued a statement last November, for example, that condemned Israel’s plans to clear out some 400 Bedouin squatters from the villages of Ein al-Hilweh and Umm Jamal––both in Area C, under Israeli control––that were illegally built and interrupted traffic due to their haphazard formation.
In April 2017, when the EU began urging Israel not to destroy Khan al-Ahmar, Avivit Bar-Ilan, director of the Foreign Ministry’s EU department, told EU Deputy Ambassador to Israel Mark Gallagher that “in Israel, illegal construction is dealt with according to the law.”
Putting Their Money Where Their Mouth Is
The EU has also funded illegal Palestinian construction.
In August 2016, for instance, Israeli authorities destroyed five illegally constructed Palestinian structures in the Hebron area, three of which were funded by the EU. The makeshift structures were situated in proximity to the Israeli community of Carmel.
Oved Arad, of Regavim, a research-based legal advocacy NGO dedicated to ensuring accountable use of Israel’s national land, said the five structures were only “the tip of the iceberg” of illegal, EU-funded, Palestinian construction in the area.
The EU runs dozens of projects in Area C, many of them undermining Israeli control of the area and which are designed to grab land and create facts on the ground ahead of a possible final agreement.
In March 2016, Regavim, an Israeli NGO, “launched legal action after photographing EU flags flying above buildings on land placed under Israeli jurisdiction by the Oslo Accords, to which the EU is a signatory. EU bureaucrats are avoiding court by citing diplomatic rules,” the UK’s MailOnline reported at the time. “Regavim has brought a number of lawsuits against the EU, accusing it of undermining international agreements. On each occasion, the EU avoided court by claiming diplomatic immunity.”
“They’re building without authorization against the accepted rules and there’s a clear attempt to create political realities there,” Netanyahu has charged.
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