Wednesday, October 18, 2017

8 European Countries Demand Israel Pay For West Bank Structures It Destroyed, Israel Finishes Advancing 2,600 West Bank Homes, EU Says Settlements Undermining Peace Efforts

8 European countries demand Israel pay for West Bank structures it destroyed

Eight European Union member states are demanding that Israel pay them back for the demolition and confiscation of buildings and other installations constructed for the benefit of Bedouin encampments in Area C of the West Bank by the EU’s mission in Israel.
A letter from the EU member states, led by Belgium, setting out the demand will be handed to the Israeli Foreign Ministry in the coming days, according to the Haaretz newspaper, citing an initial report in France’s Le Monde daily.
In August, Israel dismantled a structure in West Bank Bedouin Arab village of Jabal al-Baba adjacent to al-Azariya, that was slated to open as a kindergarten for 25 children and a structure being used to house a small primary school in the southern West Bank. In addition, it confiscated solar panels on another structure being used as a school in the southern West Bank.

At the time, the EU expressed “strong concern about the recent confiscations of Palestinian school structures undertaken by Israel in Bedouin communities in the occupied West Bank.”
Israeli officials said that the installations, which include mobile rooms meant to serve as classrooms and solar panels to supply electrical power to the tent and shack dwellings of the semi-nomadic Bedouin communities of the central West Bank, were constructed illegally, without obtaining proper building permits.
Palestinian activists and EU diplomats counter that Israel makes it too difficult to obtain such permits, effectively imposing a ban on development for Palestinians living in Area C, the part of the West Bank under full Israeli civil and security control.
Besides Belgium, the seven other signatories to the letter are France, Spain, Sweden, Luxembourg, Italy, Ireland and Denmark.
According to the report, each country’s government is demanding Israel return to them the equipment it confiscated when dismantling the structures, and if it refuses, to pay them 30,000 Euros for it.

“The destruction and confiscation of humanitarian equipment, including infrastructure for schools, and disrupting the transfer of humanitarian aid contradict Israel’s commitments under international law and cause suffering for the Palestinian residents” of the area, the letter says, according to a Hebrew-language translation by Haaretz.

Israel is reportedly set to reject the demand out of hand.
According to Israeli officials, the EU’s structures are not humanitarian aid, but amount to development activities carried out without coordination and unlawfully in a bid to strengthen Palestinian claims to the areas where it is taking place.
Anywhere from 150,000 to 300,000 Palestinians live in Area C, which includes all Israeli settlements and covers about 60 percent of the West Bank’s land area. Area C Palestinians live in some 180 villages, most of which are not recognized by Israel. Unrecognized villages often lack basic infrastructure and planning, and are under threat of demolition.

The Defense Ministry body responsible for authorizing settlement construction advanced plans for some 1,300 West Bank homes Wednesday, capping off a week which saw the green-lighting of over 2,600 homes.
Included in the plans that gained final authorization for building by the Civil Administration’s High Planning Subcommittee were projects for the evacuees of the illegal Migron (86 units) and Amona (102 units) outposts.
The two communities were demolished in September 2012 and February 2017, respectively, after the High Court of Justice ruled they had been built on private Palestinian land.

Also among the 1,232 West Bank housing units advanced by the Civil Administration subcommittee Wednesday were 459 homes in Ma’ale Adumim.

The European Union Wednesday warned Israel that continued building in the West Bank is endangering efforts to renew peace talks with the Palestinians, as Israel advanced over 2,000 homes in a two-day blitz of approvals.
“The European Union has requested clarifications from Israeli authorities and conveyed the expectation that they reconsider these decisions, which are detrimental to ongoing efforts towards meaningful peace talks,” a statement said.
“This week, Israeli authorities further promoted plans, tenders and permits for thousands of settlement units across the West Bank, including, for the first time since 2002, in the heart of Hebron,” the spokesperson said in the statement.

“All settlement activity is illegal under international law, and it undermines the viability of the two-state solution and the prospect for a lasting peace,” the body said.
Turkey also condemned the new building, calling it a “violation” of rights of the Palestinian people.
“We condemn the Israeli authorities’ advancement of the procedure related to the construction of 1,588 additional units at illegal settlements in West Bank which they keep under occupation,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “These unacceptable violations of the most fundamental rights of the Palestinian people destroy the ground for a two-state solution.”

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told Israel that Moscow has agreed to expand a buffer zone along the Israeli-Syrian border, where Iranian and Hezbollah forces will not be allowed to enter, Arab media reported Wednesday.

The statement attributed to an Israeli diplomatic official by London-based Asharq Al-Awsat said that Russia had refused the Israeli request for a 40 kilometers (25 miles) buffer zone, but expressed willingness to extend a 10-15 kilometer off-limits zone. Russia, which views Iran as a key player in resolving the crisis in Syria, has repeatedly emphasized the importance of the role that the Islamic Republic plays in the war-torn country. 

As the war in Syria seems to be winding down in Assad’s favor due to Moscow’s intervention, Israel fears that Iran will help Hezbollah produce accurate precision-guided missiles and aid Hezbollah and other Shi'ite militias to strengthen their foothold in the Golan Heights.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly criticized a US-Russian cease-fire deal in Syria, saying that it does not include any provisions to stop Iranian expansion in the area. Russia is reported to have rejected a request from Jerusalem for a 40-kilometer buffer zone between the Golan Heights and any Iranian-backed militias in Syria, only agreeing to make sure that no Shi'ite fighter would come closer than 5 kilometers from Israel.

According to the report in Asharq al-Awsat, Shoigu told Israeli officials that the 40 km demand was unrealistic and that Iranian and Hezbollah troops have not approached the border since Russian troops entered Syria, saying that therefore the request was “exaggerated” and “superfluous.”

Israeli officials have repeatedly voiced concerns over the growing Iranian presence on its borders and the smuggling of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah from Tehran to Lebanon via Syria, stressing that both are red-lines for the Jewish State.

The Spanish government crackdown on Catalan separatists has intensified this week, with a judge jailing two of the movements leaders and the country’s constitutional court officially declaring the region’s Oct. 1 referendum to be illegal. However, after confusing the Spanish government with his independence (non) declaration, regional leader Carles Puigdemont is refusing to back down ahead of tomorrow's second, and final, Spanish ultimatum.
According to Reuters, Puigdemont told a meeting of his party on Wednesday he would formally declare independence Thursday morning if Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy follows through with his threat to invoke the so-called "nuclear option" of Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, and suspend Catalonia’s regional autonomy - a decision that would likely lead to the arrest of Puigdemont and his government, followed by another violent crackdown on separatists.
Madrid has set a second and final deadline of 10 am local time Thursday for the Catalonian government to recant and officially revoke its symbolic declaration of independence, which Puigdemont suspended last week while hoping to negotiate with the Spanish government, Reuters reported.

The United Nations General Assembly on Monday elected 15 member states to the UN Human Rights Council for the 2018-2020 term, including such notorious human rights abusers as Qatar, Angola, Pakistan, Nigeria, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Member states considered eligible for membership on the Human Rights Council are theoretically supposed to be able to demonstrate their commitment to the highest standards of human rights and their full cooperation with all UN mechanisms, including the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), Special Procedures and treaty bodies and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. These countries fall woefully short of such standards.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said that the “election is yet another example of why the Human Rights Council (HRC) lacks credibility and must be reformed in order to be saved.” She added, “Countries that aggressively violate human rights at home should not be in a position to guard the human rights of others. We need a unified voice of moral clarity with backbone and integrity to call out abusive governments. This election has once again proven that the Human Rights Council, as presently constituted, is not that voice.”
As an example of a country that does not belong on a credible human rights body, yet ran unopposed for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, Ambassador Haley pointed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  She described the DRC as “a country infamous for political suppression, violence against women and children, arbitrary arrest and detention, and unlawful killings and disappearances.”

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