Headline: One year on, EU falls short on promise to Palestinians
A year after all 27 EU countries committed to challenging settlement expansion, forced displacement, and demolition of Palestinian property in an unprecedented Foreign Affairs Council statement, approvals for illegal settlements have increased and hundreds of Palestinian homes and structures have been bulldozed despite EU saying this must stop.
The Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA), a coordinating body representing over 80 international aid and development agencies working in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT), today issued a new report urging the European Union to match their strong words with action in order toeffectively challenge Israeli government policies that are creating unbearable conditions for many of the 150,000 Palestinians living under full Israeli military and civil control in Area C, which makes up 60 percent of the West Bank.
The agencies warned that chances for a just and durable solution that allows Palestinians and Israelis to live with peace and security were slipping away as the situation on the ground continues to deteriorate.
More than 600 houses have been built in the past year in the illegal Israeli settlements while 535 Palestinian-owned homes and structures have been destroyed, leaving 784 people homeless or displaced. Around 30 European-funded structures have been demolished during this same time and dozens more, including basic tents, water cisterns and animal pens are under threat of demolition. Europe has made clear its objections to Israel’s continued settlement expansion and demolition of Palestinian and European property. Yet, its response has mostly come in words only, with action remaining on an ad hoc and uncoordinated basis. If this continues, living conditions for Palestinians are set to worsen, and vital European tax-payers’ investments will be wasted.
“Just a year ago, EU governments injected fresh hope that they would collectively use their political weight to improve the living conditions of Palestinians and halt Israeli violations of international law, but looking back, we can say they are at serious risk of failing both Palestinians and Europeans,” said Charles Silva, Country Director for Action Against Hunger (ACF) and AIDA Chair.
With European leaders set to meet again to discuss the Middle East peace process today, the report “Failing to Make the Grade: How the EU can pass its own test and work to improve the lives of Palestinians in Area C,” explains what they can and must do to put their words into action that results in positive changes on the ground. The report stresses that Europe must honour its pledges to increase much-needed development aid for Area C and to push the government of Israel to remove restrictions that leave Palestinians vulnerable to demolition and prevent them from building proper homes, schools, roads, water infrastructure and electrical grids.
The report illustrates how some European countries have been working to protect communities in Area C from demolition by investing in village plans. While the Israeli authorities are in the process of considering applications, none of the 32 European-funded village plans to date have been fully approved. This is in sharp contrast to the tendering of at least 1,967 new settlement housing units in the year since the EU statement, a four-fold increase from 2011.
“Last year EU governments said for the first time it was also in their own interest to bring an end to the conflict in Israel and Palestine – if they are serious, they can and must work together to address harmful policies of the Israeli government and support the most vulnerable Palestinians in the West Bank,” said Nishant Pandey Oxfam Country Director.
Tony Laurance, CEO from Medical Aid for Palestinians added: “Israel is morally and legally responsible for the wellbeing of Palestinian men, women and children in the occupied Palestinian territory. EU countries have an obligation to address violations of International Law and collectively to put pressure on Israel to end policies impeding Palestinian development.”