The European Union (EU) argues that it respects democracy and shares with Israel the values of an open and democratic rule-of-law-based society. If that is true, then why does the EU not respect the decision by the Arabs and the Israelis to mutually come to the table to negotiate their own borders? Why is the EU secretly helping the Palestinians take over Area C of the West Bank through illegal construction?
A confidential leaked document , composed by the EU mission in east Jerusalem, shows that the Europeans are actively working with, and on behalf of, the Palestinian Authority to take over Area C of the West Bank -- although the area was clearly agreed on, by both Israel and the Palestinians, until further negotiations, to be under Israeli control.
The Oslo Accords, signed between Israel and the Palestinians, established the administrative division of the West Bank into three areas: A, B, and C.
Area A is under the exclusive control of the Palestinian Authority; in Area B, the Palestinian Authority exercises administrative control but shares security control with Israel. The majority of the Palestinians live in these two areas.
Area C is exclusively controlled by Israel.
The Oslo Accords are called an interim agreement because they were supposed to be the basis for subsequent negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis and the preliminary to an eventual comprehensive peace agreement. The preamble of the agreement speaks of "peaceful coexistence, mutual dignity and security, while recognizing... mutual legitimate and political rights" of the parties. The aim of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is, among other things, to establish a Palestinian Interim Self-government Authority for the Palestinian people. By 1996, as stated in the Oslo Accords, negotiations on the permanent status issues, including borders, would be started.
The EU, however, has chosen to ignore the decision made by the Israelis and Palestinians to reach a permanent and comprehensive peace agreement through negotiations. It has also chosen to encourage the Palestinians to break the law through illegal construction and land grabs.
Instead of pressuring the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table with Israel, the EU is helping the Palestinians illegally seize control of large parts of Area C -- in direct violation of the Oslo Accord.
The EU, in short, is encouraging the Palestinians not to return to the negotiating table with Israel. Instead, the EU is telling the Palestinians that the EU will help them steal land as an alternative to reaching a peaceful settlement with Israel through negotiations.
"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 states.
"The viability of the two-state solution is being steadily eroded by the progressive fragmentation and 'creeping annexation' (by Israel) of Area C. This calls for an enhanced, articulated and robust nexus approach mobilizing European political and financial means."
According to the document:
"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."
Dr. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, told the Jewish News Syndicate (JNS) that "since 1980, EU 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."
Prof. Eugene Kontorovich, director of international law at the Kohelet Policy Forum in Jerusalem, told JNS the leaked EU 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... 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 [the West Bank] — they [the EU and Palestinians] are the ones responsible for stealing it."
Jenny Aharon, director of Golden Gate Public Affairs, who advises on EU-Israel affairs and works with EU institutions in Brussels, pointed out that the EU was acting in defiance of its own declared goal.
"In order to comprehend what has transpired with the document and Israel's reaction, it's important to look into the context: the EU has strived to remain a neutral power as it states its opinion on Israel's policies in the West Bank," Aharon remarked.
"It insists that its positions are based on meticulous compliance with international law, EU law and charter, and also the Oslo Accord. This claim is surely defied by the leaked document in which we can see an activist EU striving to help the Palestinians take over Area C, the very area that is designated to Israel's control per the Oslo Accord which the EU claims to uphold."
Aharon noted that while the EU was insisting that Israel abide by the Oslo Accords and that a Palestinian state should be established within the framework of a comprehensive peace agreement, the EU, at the same time, is trying to strip Israel of its rights according to that same agreement, which gave Israel responsibility over security, public order and all issues related to territory, including planning and zoning, in Area C.
"Now that the EU's intentions are exposed, it should reconsider its positions, stop masking its political decisions with laws and put its cards on the table for an honest discussion... They should do that before EU-Israel relations deteriorate any further."
An Israeli organization consisting of more than 16,000 former military, security, and police officers called the revelation that the EU is working on a Palestinian takeover of Area C "an act of blatant hostility and aggression."
In an open letter, the Israel Defense and Security Forum (IDSF) slammed the EU for its confidential policy document:
"According to our professional understanding of national security, the dominant terrain of Judea and Samaria in Area C is key strategic terrain that controls or can threaten most of the modern State of Israel's infrastructure and strategic assets... The EU's reported clandestine activity to undermine Israeli control in Area C and to advance illegal Palestinian development in those areas constitutes a clear and present threat to the security of the State of Israel, and is an act of blatant hostility and aggression."
The founder and director of the IDSF, Brig. Gen. (Res.) Amir Avivi said the EU's activity undermines the Oslo Accords, which established Israel's control over Area C:
"These areas are crucial to Israel's existence in the long term. It's an existential issue. We are the only ones who can define what we need, talking about national security, talking about the Jewish national aspirations. No European country can decide for us what we need, and certainly not go against an accord that everybody should adhere to."
A group of 40 Israeli members of Knesset (parliament) also expressed concern over the policies and actions of the EU. They called on the EU immediately to halt "illegal construction activities in Israel's sovereign territory."
Addressing the EU leaders, the Knesset members wrote:
"Yesterday, we learned of an official policy document of the European Union, a document the gravity of which cannot be overstated, one that leaves no room for doubt as to the one-sidedness and animosity of the EU towards the State of Israel and the Jewish people. The [EU] document completely ignores our people's historical affinity to our homeland, completely ignores the political agreements and the status of the State of Israel in Area C and seeks to establish the 1949 borders as Israel's final-status permanent borders – in complete disregard of the Jewish communities in the area."
The EU policy of funding and encouraging the Palestinian land-grab is beginning to bear fruit.
A report released by the Israeli NGO Regavim, which acts to prevent the illegal seizure of Israeli state land, has revealed that in 2022, illegal Palestinian construction in Area C increased by 80%. The report documents 5,535 new illegal structures built in 2022, compared to 3,076 structures in the same period in 2021.
The EU's support for the Palestinian efforts to take over Area C is actually undermining the prospects of reaching a peaceful settlement between the Palestinians and Israel. The EU has not only damaged any chance for a negotiated settlement, but has duplicitously endorsed the Palestinians' ongoing attempt to impose a solution on Israel rather than -- as both parties involved agreed upon -- to reach one through negotiations.
It is time to tell the EU to mind its own business and stop its anti-democratic meddling in other countries' affairs.
Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.