By John Lyons, The Australian – 24 May 2013
A major new report has found that the European Union has failed to fulfil its own commitments to ensure Israel improves living conditions for Palestinians.
The damning assessment is by the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA), which represents more than 80 international aid and development agencies working in the West Bank.
It compares what the EU said in May 2012 that it would do to the reality one year later.
The report comes amid growing indications that a new peace effort by US Secretary of State John Kerry is failing and that tensions in the West Bank, or Palestinian territories, are increasing.
The Israeli media this week reported that the Netanyahu government had rejected a request from Mr Kerry to allow Palestinians to build factories in Area C, which is under Israeli occupation, as a goodwill gesture to help re-start peace talks.
The newspaper Makor Rishon, which reported that Israel had rejected the request, quoted an Israeli official saying: “Why should I give them achievements on the ground without receiving anything?”
The paper said European foreign ministers had supported Mr Kerry’s idea for factories but that the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, “would not budge from his position of principle.”
Another point of tension between the EU and Israel has arisen over Israel’s move to retrospectively legalise four Jewish outposts.
Last year, the EU called upon Israel to meet its obligations which included halting forced transfer of population and demolition of Palestinian housing and infrastructure, simplifying procedures for building permits, ensuring access to water and addressing humanitarian needs.
But the AIDA report says there has been a 94 per cent rejection of Palestinian building requests and the demolition of 535 Palestinian structures, including emergency tents, houses, roads and water cisterns.
In contrast, the report says 1967 housing units for Jewish settlers have been included in new Israeli tendering processes and 613 new units built.
The report says in the last year there have been 150 Palestinians injured by violence from Jewish settlers, including 33 children.
The issue of settler violence was raised by President Barack Obama two months ago.
On his first trip to Israel as president, he said: “It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of their own, and lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movement of her parents every single day.
“It is not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished … neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer.”
Foreign Minister Bob Carr along with Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague recently said both countries regarded all Jewish settlements in the West Bank as illegal.
The AIDA report says of the 32 master plans funded by the EU since 2009 not one had been approved by Israel.
It says 30 European-funded structures have been demolished by Israel.
“No European donor has sought compensation for damage to EU-funded aid projects or pressed for accountability by other means,” it says.
Releasing the report, Oxfam’s Nishant Pandey said: “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.”
The chief executive of Medical Aid for Palestinians, Tony Laurance, said: “Israel is morally and legally responsible for the well-being 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.”
While settlements are illegal under international law but legal under Israeli law, outposts are illegal under Israeli law but in most cases are permitted to exist by Israel.
While all of the West Bank is ultimately under Israeli military rule, the Oslo accords, the West Bank was divided into three areas A, B and C.
Area C represents about 60 per cent of the West Bank and is under full Israeli military control.
About 325,000 Jewish settlers and about 150,000 Palestinians live in Area C.