Israel has destroyed $74 million worth of EU projects
An $11-million farming project in the Jordan Valley, a $61,200 playground near Nablus and an elementary school serving a Bedouin community east of Jerusalem: all have been destroyed by Israel.
These are just a few examples of the at least 150 European-funded structures in the occupied West Bank that Israel demolished in the first three months of 2016.
Israel has destroyed more homes, businesses and public infrastructure in these months than in all of 2015, according to a new report by the non-profit Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, or Euro-Med.
Each month, an average of 165 privately and internationally funded structures were demolished or partially destroyed, representing a more than three-fold increase from the previous rate of 50 demolitions per month between 2012 and 2015.
More than 900 Palestinians have been made homeless this year, according to UN statistics, and thousands more have had their livelihoods affected by the wave of destruction.
Euro-Med says that the UN deputy coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Robert Piper, has suggested the increase in demolitions is a response to the escalation of violent confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli occupation forces that began in October 2015.
But Israeli politician Moti Yogev, who has applied pressure on Israeli occupation forces to ramp up demolitions, said, “I have no doubt that the government’s firm stance is in part a result of the unilateral measures taken by Europe,” referring to the EU’s decision to label settlement products late last year.
If so, the demolitions can be likened to the “price tag” attacks on Palestinians and their property carried out by settlers as a form of revenge for policies they don’t like.
The discrepancy in explanations may be due in part to the fact that European officials have tried to downplay the extent of Israel’s destruction of EU-funded infrastructure in order to avoid embarrassment, according to Euro-Med researcher Cécile Choquet.
In 2012, Chris Davies, a UK member of the European Parliament, and Štefan Füle, the former European commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy, submitted a list of EU-funded projects Israel had destroyed in the first eleven years of the millennium.
The 82-item list amounted to $56 million worth of losses.
But since then European Union bureaucrats have kept this kind of data classified, according to Euro-Med, which estimates that the total amount of EU aid squandered since 2001 totals $74 million. Some $26 million of this was destroyed during Israel’s bombardment of Gaza in 2014.
While European diplomats have issued condemnatory statements, they have yet to call into question the military and economic trade deals that undergird EU-Israel relations.
Last month, for instance, the EU criticized the “regrettable trend of confiscations and demolitions, since the beginning of the year, including of EU-funded humanitarian assistance,” after Israel destroyed the shelters of a Bedouin community near Jerusalem.
But the statement contained no hint of any measures to actually hold Israel accountable.
According to Haaretz, increasing political pressure is being placed on EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to confront Israel on the demolitions of EU-funded projects.
Mogherini reported that some EU members are demanding compensation from Israel.
The EU envoy to Israel, Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen, reportedly warned senior Israeli officers last week that if the demolitions remained at this level, EU-Israel relations could be harmed.
The EU mission in Tel Aviv did not respond to a request for comment from The Electronic Intifada on what the consequences, if any, would be if Israel did not halt the demolitions.
Another meeting between EU officials and Israel’s foreign ministry is scheduled for later this month to discuss a freeze on demolishing EU-funded structures.
Impossible to build
Demolitions overwhelmingly occur in Area C, 60 percent of the occupied West Bank that is under total Israeli control under the terms of the 1993 Oslo accords.
More than 70 percent of the Palestinians in that area are not connected to any water network. Between 2000 and 2014, Israeli authorities approved only 1.5 percent of Palestinian applications for building permits in Area C.
But COGAT, the Israeli occupation bureaucracy that administers military rule of Palestinians in Area C, has insisted the demolitions are measures “against illegal building.”
Far-right Israeli organization Regavim has co-opted the language of international groups who criticize Israel’s settlement building, describing EU projects in the West Bank as “illegal constructions in Area C.”
The EU’s investment in Area C is in keeping with its political commitment to what it calls the two-state solution.
To that same end, the EU is the biggest donor to the Palestinian Authority. Since 1994 it has provided $6.3 billion in aid to the entity that nominally rules over Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Most of the aid the EU funnels to the PA is to support daily operations: salaries of employees and security forces.
Between 2007 and 2015, the EU allocated $2.8 billion for PA governance. Since 2000, the European Commission, the EU’s executive, has allocated $792 million towards the basic humanitarian needs of the Palestinian population in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The EU and its member states, meanwhile, have continued their arms trade with Israel.
French political scientist Caroline du Plessix told Euro-Med, “There is no Palestinian state today. The question is: What are we funding? Are we helping Israel to maintain the occupation, or are we truly helping the Palestinians build their independence?”