European Union Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process Sven Koopmans stated on February 17: "The EU wants build stronger ties with Israel, yet relations sadly remain burdened by the construction of illegal settlements on Palestinian land."
What Koopmans forgot to mention that it is the Palestinians who have built literally tens of thousands of illegal structures in the West Bank, especially in Area C, which, according to the Oslo Accords, is under full Israeli security and civilian jurisdiction.
Koopmans also forgot to mention that the EU is helping the Palestinian Authority (PA) with the mass-scale illegal construction, paving the way for the de facto annexation of the territory.
By way of background: Under the Oslo Accords, the West Bank was divided into three zones -- unpoetically named Areas A, B and C -- while negotiations were underway for a permanent solution to the borders. Area A is under full Palestinian control, Area B is under Palestinian control apart from security. Area C is officially an Israeli area that is still to be negotiated.
The EU does not interfere anyplace else on the planet other than Area C -- not for the Kurds, the Assyrians, the Yazidis, the Uyghurs, the Kashmiris, the Tibetans or the Greek Cypriots. The Palestinians continue to be the only group on the EU's list of people with whom to interfere. This inordinate attention appears to stem not so much from love for the Palestinians as from hatred for Israel.
The envoys of several EU countries recently expressed concerns about Israel's "unilateral actions," and earlier this year, Josep Borell, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, called on Israel to avoid "unilateral actions," including settlement activity and the demolition of illegal Palestinian structures, especially in the West Bank area of Hebron.
When Palestinians complain about "unilateral actions," they are referring to Israel's counterterrorism measures and the construction of new homes for Jewish families. The Palestinians do not want to see the Israeli security forces go after the terrorists. They also do not want to see Israel building homes for Jews.
Israel's Ministry of Intelligence, however, found in a report only recently declassified, that
"foreign governments gave hundreds of millions of euros to Palestinian projects in Area C in Judea and Samaria....Such funding is contrary to international law and relevant agreements... [T]he report describes how the Palestinians use EU funds to build thousands of illegal structures and grab swaths of agricultural land.." [Emphases added]
The EU, it seems, has funded literally thousands of illegal Palestinian modular buildings in territory that is legally under Israeli jurisdiction. The EU, moreover, has never concealed its policy of supporting the Palestinians in their efforts to grab prohibited land and build illegal structures in Israel's Area C.
Lately, the EU has been concentrating more on agricultural land: one can acquire a much larger area for a much smaller investment.
In 2012, the EU developed, for the first time, a comprehensive policy related to Area C, to be followed by a set of concrete steps and action.
Between 2016 and 2019, the EU provided a total of 33 million euros ($35 million) to "humanitarian and development assistance to support Palestinians living in Area C."
The EU says it also works with the Palestinian Authority to "develop" Area C. The EU adds that it "supports projects promoting economic development and improving the quality of life of Palestinian communities in Area C in the areas of the private sector, the environment and agriculture."
The EU is openly admitting that it is assisting the Palestinians to break the law by building illegal structures in an area that is officially under full Israeli sovereignty.
By doing so, the EU is encouraging the Palestinians to engage in unilateral actions in violation of the agreements signed between the Palestinians and Israel.
This is the same EU that continues to warn Israel not to take any "unilateral actions," and that continues to criticize Israel for building and expanding "illegal" settlements in the West Bank.
An Israeli non-governmental organization, Regavim, has documented "5535 new illegal structures built in 2022, compared to 3076 structures in the same period in 2021" -- in one year, nearly double.
Countless EU-funded Palestinian modular homes have also been erected in locations around Jerusalem and the West Bank in the past few years. These structures fly an EU flag and display hundreds of EU signs and stickers.
As of 2022, the EU has built 81,317 illegal structures in Area C, according to Regavim.
"Alongside this mass-scale illegal construction, dispersed over an immense geographic area, additional phenomena are fueling the Palestinian Authority's de facto annexation of the territory, massive illegal agricultural projects on Israeli state land, lawfare funded by foreign concerns... and a coordinated campaign of international pressure. These are all elements of a calculated strategy, carried out under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority with the stated goal of creating facts on the ground in support of a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood, dealing a severe blow to Israel's national in interests and security."
The EU's commitment to the expansion of illegal Palestinian settlement in Area C persists in full disregard of the Oslo Accords, which the EU purports to uphold.
"The object is to create continuous Palestinian settlement throughout the West Bank and thereby isolate and strangle Israeli communities," wrote Hillel Frisch, professor of Political Science and Middle Eastern History at Bar-Ilan University, in 2019.
"For the first time in the 100-year-old conflict between the Zionist movement (and later the State of Israel) and the Palestinian Arabs, the Palestinians are surpassing the Jews in strategic settlement, over which the Zionist movement had enjoyed a monopoly. The PA is achieving this under the auspices of the EU."
In April 2012, the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Local Government published a strategic action plan entitled "Planning Support for Palestinian Communities in Area C." The EU announced its support for this plan in an official document called "Land Development and Access to Basic Infrastructure in Area C."
Frisch pointed out that as early as 2016, the EU had already spent a total of 10.5 million euros [$11 million] to draw up and implement zoning plans for 90 Palestinian settlements and support land development projects in Area C in conjunction with the Palestinian Authority.
"The PA-EU's prime objective is clear: to create continuous Arab settlement from the south to the north of the West Bank, while simultaneously thwarting Israeli designs to create continuous neighborhoods from Ma'ale Adumim to Jerusalem (the E-1 plan).
"The PA's achievements have been considerable so far. As new Israeli building dwindles to insignificance in areas east of Jerusalem, the PA, with European help, has succeeded in housing tens of thousands... in a space no larger than nine square kilometers. This number is more than double the number of inhabitants in Ma'ale Adumim and the other Israeli localities in the area.
"Eastward of Ma'ale Adumim, the PA and the EU have identified makeshift Bedouin encampments, the most prominent being al-Khan al-Akhmar, as the chief weapon with which to transform Area C into a Palestinian state. These fast-growing encampments are close to a major highway and are bereft of sewage systems and organized garbage disposal. The Israeli authorities have earmarked an area just south of Abu Dis that would provide all these amenities, yet the PA and the EU continue to abet Bedouin encampments."
Khan al-Ahmar would be a chief weapon because it is located within a few meters of the highway connecting Jerusalem with the Dead Sea and the Jordan Valley. The Palestinians want Khan al-Ahmar to become a Palestinian settlement that would cut off Jerusalem from these areas, then surround the city with Palestinian communities.
The EU and the Palestinians are acting in accordance with a program launched in 2009 by former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
The 2009 "Fayyad Plan" (officially titled "Palestine: Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State") was -- and remains -- a proposal to create facts on the ground that would end up as a Palestinian state if negotiations do not work out, thereby bypassing the need to negotiate with Israel as agreed to in the Oslo Accords.
The catch is: If the Palestinians believe that they can be handed a state by some external entity, such as the EU, at no cost to themselves, why should they ever bother to negotiate? For years, in fact, they have avoided coming to the negotiating table, presumably in the hope of precisely such a windfall.
Some Jahalin Bedouin squatters also presented a perfect means of establishing an extra-judicial foothold.
The best interests of the Jahalin Bedouin were not the main concern of the Palestinian Authority. What was important to the PA was the land -- to take possession of it and then make whatever was built on it appear irreversible. So while the PA and the EU continue to talk about a negotiated settlement for Area C (Areas A and B are already under Palestinian control), illegal construction in Area C, which is officially under Israeli sovereignty, with the final borders to be negotiated, these new facts on the ground, of course, encourage the Palestinians not to negotiate. Why should they, if they can get everything they want by just taking it?
With the help of generous support of EU member states and Arab countries, the Palestinian Authority has also launched a series of "nationalist initiatives," focusing on rural areas and desolate sections of Area C. Concerted efforts were invested in strategic areas that would have the greatest impact on Palestinian claims of de facto sovereignty.
According to Naomi Kahn, International Director of Regavim:
"The Europeans pay for the planning. They pay for the engineering. They pay for the legal support. They pay for the infrastructure. They pay for construction, even though they know it's illegal, and they build into the contracts the possible demolition. They also build into the contract legal representation if and when it comes to court because it's illegal."
Fayyad's unilateral plan to create facts on the ground is totally in violation of the Oslo Accords, which state that "neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations."
"The Palestinians' unilateral establishment of facts on the ground completely undermines Israel's opening position for any negotiated settlement," Regavim has warned. The EU, however, seems clearly determined to continue the illegal Fayyad Plan to help the Palestinians with their land-grabs and mass-scale illegal construction.
At the end of last year, a secret document by the EU's mission in east Jerusalem showed that Brussels is also actively working with, and on behalf of, the Palestinian Authority to take over Area C of the West Bank. According to the document:
"The EU's Area C program aims to foster the resilience of [Palestinian] people, services and institutions, to reinforce Palestinian presence in Area C and to protect the rights of Palestinians living in Area C."
It is time to call out the hypocritical malice of EU officials such as Sven Koopmans, who continue to accuse Israel of taking "unilateral actions" and building "illegal" settlements. Koopmans and other senior EU officials apparently know they are acting illicitly: they are doing their utmost to hide the fact that they are actively helping the Palestinians to break the law and violate the agreements signed with Israel.
Just as Israel does not meddle in the internal affairs of the EU member states, it is time to put an end to the EU's poisonous intrusion into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Along the way, the EU might also want to consider the real source of its lethal obsession with Israel.
Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.