Israel accuses EU of being ‘obsessed’ over demolition of Palestinian homes in West Bank

Israel accuses EU of being ‘obsessed’ over demolition of Palestinian homes in West Bank
Tel Aviv has accused the European Union of "disproportionately" focusing on the West Bank instead of paying attention to humanitarian crises taking place across the globe. It comes after the bloc demanded that Israel stop demolishing Palestinian homes.

Israel's Foreign Ministry summoned the EU’s deputy ambassador to Israel, Mark Gallagher, on Monday, according to Haaretz. 

The summons followed Brussels' vocal protest of the demolition of 42 homes in a Bedouin village in the West Bank, in order to make room for Jewish settlements.

During the meeting with Gallagher, the ministry's EU director, Avivit Bar-Ilan, told the deputy ambassador that the buildings being destroyed were constructed illegally. She reminded that "in Israel, illegal construction is dealt with according to the law," according to ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon.

"There are 32 humanitarian crises around the world, but the EU chooses to disproportionately focus only on what is done in Area C of the West Bank, which are most definitely not suffering a humanitarian crisis,” Bar-Ilan said.

According to Nahshon, the ministry also asked Gallagher to "stop being so obsessive" about matters in the West Bank, the Jerusalem Post reported

Israel's message for the bloc came after EU Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen delivered a letter of protest to Foreign Ministry General Yuval Rotem last week.

The letter, delivered on behalf of all 28 EU member countries, demanded that Israel stop demolishing Palestinian homes in Area C, especially in the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar. It said the demolitions would amount to the forcible transfer of village residents, a violation of the Geneva Convention.

Khan al-Ahmar is home to a few hundred people who live in temporary structures. Its citizens are among the poorest in the West Bank.

The EU has long voiced opposition to Israel's policies in Area C. It has also provided modular housing for Palestinian and Bedouin herding villages, particularly in the area of Ma’aleh Adumim and the South Hebron Hills, according to the Jerusalem Post. It argues that such structures fall under humanitarian aid, and that international law allows it to provide such housing to Palestinians, even if it goes against Israeli law.

Two weeks ago, Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reconsider the planned demolitions in Al-Ahmar. Netanyahu replied by saying he will not allow "illegal building by the Palestinians."

Although Israel says the buildings in question were erected without permits, the EU and United Nations say such permits are practically impossible for Palestinians to obtain.

Tel Aviv has increased demolitions in Area C over the past year, according to figures from the UN's office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs. A total of 876 Palestinian structures were demolished in 2016, compared to between 450 and 560 each year between 2012 and 2015. A total of 121 structures were demolished in January 2017 alone.

There are 46 communities in the central West Bank at risk of forcible transfer by Israel. Those communities house a total of 7,000 residents.

Israel's stern words for the EU come just one week after Tel Aviv cut an additional $2 million from its annual UN contribution, citing “obsessional discrimination against Israel." The move followed the adoption of five resolutions by the UN's Human Rights Council (UNHRC), all having to do with human rights abuses Israel has allegedly committed in the occupied Palestinian territories and the Golan Heights.