By Yotam Rozenwald
Tazpit News Agency
According to a special report by “Regavim”, an Israeli NGO, the EU is actively funding and supporting the creation of illegal Bedouin villages in Area C. The EU provides the Bedouin with caravans which replace their traditional tents, thus creating permanent villages.
The report claims the new villages are created with no coordination or approval by the Israeli authorities which hold sovereignty over Area C by law.
In the Oslo Accord, the territory known as the West Bank was divided into three areas: A, B and C. Area C is the only area under full Israeli sovereignty; therefore construction projects need to be approved by Israel’s Civilian Administration.
Ovad Arad, the Judea and Samaria Field Coordinator at Regavim explained the magnitude of the EU’s activity. “Between 2012-2014 the EU has actively promoted the illegal building of approximately 400 houses, replacing traditional Bedouin tents. The houses can be seen all over Area C – aluminum caravans with the EU’s sticker on them,” he told Tazpit News Agency.
“Imagine a hypothetical situation in which the EU is actively building permanent residence for the Romani gypsies in southern France or Spain, without any governmental approval,” Arad told Tazpit News Agency. “This would be unheard of”.
Shadi Othman, the communication and information officer for the EU office in East Jerusalem claims the illegal building is part of humanitarian aid provided lawfully by the EU. “The buildings are not permanent, they have no infrastructure, and they were built before the 2013 snowstorm. Furthermore, Area C is an integral part of the West-Bank and Palestine, we are fully mandated to provide humanitarian aid for communities there,” Othman told Tazpit News Agency.
Othman also claims the EU’s notifies Israeli authorities on its actions.
Meir Deutsch, Regavim’s Policy Coordinator spoke to Tazpit News Agency and explained the problematic aspect of the EU’s activities. “According to the Oslo accord and international law, the state of Israel holds sovereignty over Area C. Therefore, the Israeli Civil Administration is the only authority eligible to approve new buildings or villages. The EU dose not coordinates the construction of permanent Bedouins villages; it acts unilaterally on the field and shapes reality in accordance with the Palestinian interests.”
“The houses given to the Bedouins are permanent; a temporary house has wheels on it and therefore can be mobilized from place to place. These EU Aluminum caravans have no wheels whatsoever,” Deutsch told Tazpit News.
Deutsch dismisses the claim the aluminum caravans were distributed to help the Bedouins cope with the harsh December 2013 snowstorm, “the EU started handing those caravans in 2012, well before anyone knew a snowstorm will hit the country. In addition, Area C rarely gets any snow, so suggesting the caravans were handed for that purpose seems absurd to me,” he told Tazpit News.
Deutsch also dismisses the EU’s claim of providing humanitarian support. “We don’t see the EU providing humanitarian support for Bedouins which live under the same humanitarian conditions in Egypt, Jordan, Syria, or other parts of Israel for that matter,” he told Tazpit News.
Deutsch elaborates and highlights the EU’s objection to the “noayma plan”, an Israeli plan to give Area C Bedouins lands for free and build them a new city, north of Jericho. “The EU opposed the Noayma plan. It had the potential to create a permanent residence for Bedouins. If the EU is honestly concerned with the Bedouin’s humanitarian situation, it could have supported the plan,” Deutsch told Tazpit News.
Regavim’s report accuses the EU for double standard towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The report points to the fact the EU criticizes’ Israel whenever it takes unilateral steps, while actively participating in unilateral Palestinian steps. Therefore, the EU promotes Palestinian goals and interests at the expense of Israeli interests, and with no regard to any regional political implications.
According to the report, the actions taken by the EU undermine legitimate Israeli sovereignty, while exacerbating and fueling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.