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#EU and #Israel struggling to define where legal and illegal actions become politically driven

| September 13, 2017 | 0 Comments

Following the demolition of a EU funded school in the West Bank, many are outraged and wrongfully claim that Israel is violating human rights. This incident should be an opportunity for both Israelis and Europeans to define where legal or illegal actions turn out to be politically driven – writes Fulvio Martusciello, Member of European Parliament, Chief Delegation of EU relations with Israel and political analyst Jenny Aharon.

The European taxpayer has the right to be angry for the wasted money that has been invested in a lot of the demolished projects. These projects were set up in order to improve the situation on the ground for everyone involved. After all, the EU has vowed to assist the peace process and is striving to become a fair broker while abiding by the law.

Yet we have seen during the debates on the labelling issue that improving lives was not at the core of politicians’ priorities.

The EU-Israel Trade Agreement, which is part of the Association Agreement, makes the territories beyond the green line ineligible for tax exemption. That is where the labelling issue was created as the EU pointed out that merely the goods exported from Israeli companies within the green line fall under the agreement.  After the EU pressured Israel to follow suit, Israeli factories moved behind the green line so they can keep profiting from the Trade Agreement. Ironically, the side effect of this measure made thousands of Palestinian workers lose their jobs. The result of EU’s protest has affected only 1% of Israeli trade while the consequences were far more devastating for the Palestinians. Although this raises questions about EU’s true motivation in this matter and the poor outcome of it, we must admit that rules are rules and it is fair to say that we should all abide by the law and agreements.

By the same token, now it is the EU’s turn to follow the rules. Israel has civil control over area C according to the Oslo intermediary agreement. The PA has civil control on both A and B while Israel has security control over B, as well as civil and security control over C. Since the Oslo Accords, the European countries have always supported this plan that would eventually make a two state solution possible.

However, part of the plan is to accept the intermediary agreement which gives Israel the right of civil control over area C. Unexpectedly, the EU disregarded this agreement and began to fund constructions in area C without permits in order to force Israel’s hand and set new realities on the ground. Granted, Israel has rejected many requests for permits in area C, even so, at the same time, it is fitting to mention that Israel has also rejected numerous requests of Jewish settlers.

Furthermore, Israel respects the PA’s civil control over area A and doesn’t interfere with permits granted or refused by the PA. Area B has a more complicated status as Israel shares security control over that area where permits are required by both the PA and Israel. Although one can argue if it was in anyone’s best interest to demolish a school, it is fair to admit once again that rules are rules, agreements are agreements and this school did not have a permit. If Israel had allowed for the school to remain, there is no way to tell how many constructions without permits would be undertaken by Jews and Arabs alike. This means chaos.

The EU must come to terms with the agreed plan and admit that funding illegal constructions is not the solution and will not advance peace. Forcing Israel’s hand by building without permit in area C will not advance peace. Nevertheless, the EU should keep trying and fund constructions that do have permits, especially when we speak about education. Essentially, the EU should put its political agenda aside and fund schools and other projects with permits and seek to fund in areas where permits could be more easily acquired.

Concerned voices are pointing out that the goal of Oslo was and still is the two state solution. The Israelis sought to achieve the right basic principles in order to finalise this plan. As much as Europeans remain prominent actors in achieving this goal, creating the right climate for it becomes indispensable. In the meantime, in order to avoid chaos and anarchy, all sides should stick to the intermediary agreement and ask for permits from the municipalities of the areas in charge of civil administration, no different than in any other democratic country.

 

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Category: A Frontpage, Israel

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