Sunday

21st Apr 2019

EU rhetoric fails to stop Israeli land-grab

  • Jewish settlers: Israel says there is no 'occupation' because there is no Palestinian state (Photo: ISM-NC)

Israel is continuing to seize Palestinian land in the West Bank despite EU and US initiatives to stop the decades-old process.

According to a new study by Aida, a coalition of 80 aid agencies, Israel demolished 535 Palestinian-owned structures between May 2012 and April 2013, displacing 784 people, more than half of them children.

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It also demolished 30 EU-funded structures, such as water cisterns.

It rejected 94 percent of Palestinian applications for building permits.

But at the same time, it approved more than 6,600 new housing units for Jewish settlers.

Meanwhile, Israeli soldiers continued to turn a blind eye to settler attacks on Palestinians, which injured 150 people, including 33 children, in the past year.

According to a separate report by Israeli daily Haaretz on Monday (27 May), the figures on new settler houses only tell part of the story.

Israel last year also extended the legal boundaries of old settlements by 1,977 acres - an area twice as big as Central Park in New York.

There is nothing new about the facts on the ground.

The land-grab began in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and has so far created some 5 million Palestinian refugees, most of whom live in Gaza, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.

Aida chose the May to April timeframe because EU foreign ministers in May 2012 urged Israel to halt the "forced transfer" of Palestinian people and to "comply with its obligations under interna­tional law."

The aid groups said EU action remains "ad­ hoc and unco-ordinated" despite its statements.

They added: "The human toll of these demolitions is enormous, dis­rupting children's education, separating family members and causing the declining economic, physical and mental health of the families that experience them."

EU foreign ministers plan to hold informal talks on the Middle East Peace Process at a meeting in Brussels on Monday.

But they are expected to refrain from criticising Israel in order not to upset a new US initiative to restart peace talks.

US secretary of sate John Kerry at a conference with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Amman on Sunday unveiled a plan to invest $4 billion in Palestine in the coming years.

He gave no details on where the money will come from.

He also urged Israeli President Simon Peres and Palestinian chief Mahmoud Abbas to relaunch negotiations.

Peres told Abbas: "Let's sit together - you'll be surprised how much can be achieved in open and direct and organised meetings."

But he declined to mention settlements, seen by Palestine as the main obstacle to a two-state solution.

The depth of the problem was underlined by reactions to a recent court ruling on a train line built by French firms Veolia and Alstom in occupied East Jerusalem.

An appeals court in Versailles, France in March said the firms did not break international law.

For his part, Yoel Mester, the spokesman of the Israeli embassy to the EU, told EUobserver the verdict highlights the fact there is no "occupation" of Palestine in legal terms.

"Israel's presence in the territories is often incorrectly referred to as an 'occupation.' However, under international law, true occupation occurs only in territories that have been taken from a recognised sovereign. The last recognised sovereign of the West Bank and Gaza was the Ottoman Empire, which ceased to exist following the First World War," he said.

"No sovereign Palestinian state has ever existed, neither in the West Bank nor anywhere else," he added.

The EU rejects the Israeli interpretation, however.

European External Action Service spokesman Michael Mann told this website "the EU continues to regard the West Bank … as occupied territory."

He added: "The EU does not refer to the occupation as such as illegal. It does, however, refer to a number of specific measures taken by the government of Israel as the occupying power as illegal. Two such instances are the construction of settlements … and the construction of the separation barrier where it is built on occupied land."

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