The European Union flag flies over illegal construction in Area C of Judea and Samaria. Credit: Courtesy.
by Charles Bybelezer
(JNS) — A confidential document composed by the European Union’s mission in eastern Jerusalem and obtained by JNS shows that Brussels is actively working with and on behalf of the Palestinian Authority to take over Area C of Judea and Samaria, with the overall objective of integrating the region with Areas A and B.
“The European Union is committed to contribute to building a Palestinian State within 1967 borders and mobilize to this purpose its political and financial tools,” the document begins.
“The viability of the two-state solution is being steadily eroded by the progressive fragmentation and ‘creeping annexation’ of Area C… This calls for an enhanced, articulated and robust nexus approach mobilizing European political and financial means,” it continues.
“The EU’s Area C program aims to foster the resilience of people, services and institutions, to reinforce Palestinian presence in Area C and to protect the rights of Palestinians living in Area C. The program contributes to serving Area C communities and Palestinian presence therein, so as to preserve Area C as part of a future Palestinian state,” the paper adds.
The document furthermore contends that “territorial integration is a sine qua non condition for a future Palestinian state: ‘connecting people, connecting land‘ shared principle to all interventions in Area C with the overall objective to integrate Area C with Area A and B. The EU’s interventions in Area C are strengthened by a joint European Approach and the active involvement of different actors, starting with the Palestinian Authority.”
E.U. Ambassador to Israel Dimiter Tzantchev told JNS: “We don’t comment on internal documents. The E.U.’s position in support of a two-state solution is well-known and very clear. The same is true for our concerns regarding the settlements in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] and our policy vis-à-vis Area C. Our positions are not secret and are always articulated in our contacts with the Israeli authorities, including last week during the Political Dialogue that took place at the [Ministry of Foreign Affairs] in Jerusalem.
“Much progress in E.U.-Israel relations was achieved over the last year-and-half,” Tzantchev continued, “including the signing of important cooperation agreements, high-level visits and the resumption of the Association Council after a 10-year hiatus. We are looking forward to building on the positive development in the weeks and months to come.
“We share with Israel the values of an open, democratic and rule-of-law-based society. We respect the outcome of the democratic process in Israel and we are ready to work with the next government, which we will judge by its program and by its deeds and not based on prejudices,” added the ambassador.
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A statement by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs shared with JNS said: “It is our understanding that this is an internal E.U. document which presents a series of positions that are not acceptable to Israel, including everything in regard to Area C. Israel sent this clear message to E.U. representatives on all levels who are stationed here.
“Since the document was written, most likely in June 2022, Israel and the E.U. held an ‘Association Council’ meeting [a high-level meeting between Israel, the E.U., and neighboring countries, dealing with important issues including the E.U./Israel relationship] in October of this year (for the first time in 10 years), along with further political dialogue last week, in which Israel/E.U. relations were discussed as part of the agenda.”
The four pillars of support
According to the confidential document, the E.U.’s programmatic approach in Area C stands on four main pillars:
“1. Planning and mapping of land rights; aims to strengthen the capacity of the local communities in Area C in planning their own resources and securing their land through local planning and mapping land right interventions that will provide a framework for investment and development.
“2. Provision of social and public infrastructure projects; aims to improve access to basic services such as water, electricity, road infrastructure, education or health through investment in essential social and public infrastructure. Projects are identified in coordination with Palestinian Authority and based on the development needs identified by Palestinian communities in Area C. So far, this pillar includes contributions from Member States (MS), i.e Denmark, France and Germany (in addition to the United Kingdom).
“3. Private sector development and investment in Area C, notably in agriculture, green energy and resilience; this pillar aims to support private sector development and investment in Area C in order to contribute to sustainable and inclusive economic development of Palestinian communities.
“4 . Local governance; it aims to enhance Palestinian Local Authorities’ contribution to governance and development processes in Area C, as a precondition for a more equitable, open and accountable society. It has been jointly implemented with Belgium and links to ongoing support to the Association of Palestinian Local Authorities and Local Governance Units in Area C. The E.U. and its Member State[s] have also supported civil society organisations in legal aid to Palestinian communities in Area C, to promote human rights, freedom of expression and peace-building activities.”
Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of the NGO Monitor think tank, told JNS that “since 1980, E.U. policymakers have sought to create a Palestinian state, and for the past two decades, they have used a network of NGO subcontractors to promote this objective.
“As this document confirms, Europe’s use of labels like support for ‘civil society’ and ‘human rights’ were designed to hide the millions of euros given every year to selected allied NGOs, particularly in Area C, to create facts on the ground. Now that the pretense is out in the open, the potential for a major confrontation between Israel and Europe, including over support for NGOs, is very high,” said Steinberg.
According to a recent report by the Israeli NGO Regavim, Arab expansion into land in Judea and Samaria is far outpacing Israeli growth in the area. “In the past year, the rate of illegal Palestinian construction has increased by 80 percent,” the researchers wrote last month.
So far in 2022, Palestinians built 5,535 illegal structures in Area C, which was placed under full Israeli control by the Oslo Accords. In contrast, illegal Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria amounted to 406 structures in 2022, Regavim said.
Over the past 20 years, illegal construction by Israelis totaled a mere 4,382 structures, fewer than what Palestinians built in the past year alone.
Naomi Linder Kahn, director of Regavim’s International Division, told JNS that “Israel is quantifiably losing the construction battle to the Palestinians in Area C.”
Prof. Eugene Kontorovich, director of international law at the Kohelet Policy Forum in Jerusalem, told JNS the leaked E.U. document shows that Brussels is taking steps in anticipation of policies by Israel’s incoming government to preserve lands in Area C.
“There is a rapid annexation of areas surrounding Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria by the P.A. and E.U. This is ‘land for peace’ without the fake promise of peace,” he said, adding: “These revelations show that no one should be surprised when the E.U. condemns the new government for trying to save land in Yehuda and Shomron [Judea and Samaria] — they are the ones responsible for stealing it.
“The proposed policies of the [prospective Benjamin Netanyah-led] coalition in Area C are not about changing the status quo — they are the bare minimum to preserve it,” said Kontorovich.
Josh Hasten contributed reporting for this article.