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23rd Feb 2020

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Surge in Israeli demolition of EU-funded buildings

  • Israel demolished or seized 97 structures worth some €480,000 in the area last year (Photo: Aref Daraghmeh, B’Tselem)

Israel has sped up demolitions of EU-funded and Palestinian structures in the West Bank amid hawkish talk on taking over the territory.

It wrecked or seized 97 structures worth some €480,000 in the area last year which had been built using EU or member states' funds - a 90 percent increase on the year before, according to internal EU figures seen by EUobserver.

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It also demolished 35 percent more Palestinian structures and displaced 95 percent more Palestinian people in the West Bank and East Jerusalem than in 2018.

And the trend is set to continue this year, if Israel's right-wing defence minister, Naftali Bennet, gets his way.

"The state of Israel will do everything to ensure that these territories will be part of the state of Israel," he said at an event in Jerusalem last week, referring to Area C, a vast swathe of the West Bank which belongs to Palestine, the UN says, but which has remained under Israeli military jurisdiction since Israel conquered it in 1967.

"We are embarking on a real and immediate battle for the future of the land of Israel and the future of Area C," Bennet added.

"We are not at the United Nations [here]," he said, according to Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post.

The Israeli mission to the EU did not respond to EUobserver's questions.

But the EU foreign service said: "Demolitions and seizures of humanitarian assets are contrary to Israel's obligations under international law".

"Our focus remains on the halt of the demolitions, confiscations, and of settlement construction and expansion and on the humanitarian protection of the most vulnerable populations," it added.

"On a number of occasions, often in coordination with EU member states, the EU has called for the restitution and/or compensation of EU-funded humanitarian assets which have been demolished, dismantled, or confiscated by Israel," it also said.

For their part, all five EU members of the UN Security Council - Belgium, France, Germany, Poland, and the UK - complained about the developments at a debate in New York in late December.

France, also in December, signed €20m of agreements with the Palestinian Authority to support farming and irrigation in Area C.

And the EU, Germany, France, and the UK issued statements condemning the latest surge in Israeli settlements in the region on 9 January.

The West Bank and Gaza are meant to form a future Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as a shared capital with Israel, according to the EU and UN formula for ending the decades-old Arab-Israeli conflict.

But Israeli settlers, more than 630,000 of whom have moved to the conquered lands since 1967, have already broken up the West Bank into small cantons, making the two-state solution look increasingly less possible.

And recent US policy U-turns - moving its embassy to Jerusalem and saying that Israeli settlements were not illegal - have also harmed EU conflict resolution.

"Israel's settlement policy seriously undermines the viability of the two-state solution and the prospect for a lasting peace," the EU foreign service said.

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