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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The EU and PA collaborate to destroy Oslo

This week is the annual meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee on Assistance to the Palestinians in Brussels. At this conference, the PA is presenting a paper, entitled "Equitable Development: Moving Forward Despite the Occupation," which includes this recommendation:

To tackle proactively the growing phenomenon of inequitable socio-economic conditions and quality of life driven by constraints on our ability to implement our development agenda throughout the land within the June 1967 borders – in particular, Gaza, East Jerusalem, the ‘seam zone’, the Jordan Valley as well as all other parts of the so-called ‘Area C’.

Their press release accompanying the paper was a bit more explicit:

This paper sets out the policies the government will take in the latest stage of our journey towards our own free country, an independent Palestine. While Israel, through its demolition and annexation policies on the ground, is destroying the possibility of reaching a two state solution, the paper calls on the international community to step up their efforts in Area C and East Jerusalem, if they are still committed to the idea of the two state solution.

The Oslo accords, of course, says that the final borders were up for negotiations, and until that is solved Area C is under exclusive Israeli control. Some 97% of Palestinian Arabs live in Areas A and B. When the PA is telling its Western donors to pay money to develop Area C, they are telling them to defy Oslo.

Beyond that, this idea has nothing to do with state-building. It is purely political, and meant to pressure Israel. The PA knows quite well that structures built without cooperation with Israel are often destroyed, and it also knows that Israel would face criticism when destroying illegally built structures funded by the EU.

The proof comes from a widely cited Guardian article last week:
Two large solar panels jut out of the barren landscape near Imneizil in the Hebron hills. The hi-tech structures sit incongruously alongside the tents and rough stone buildings of the Palestinian village, but they are fundamental to life here: they provide electricity.

Imneizil is not connected to the national electricity grid. Nor are the vast majority of Palestinian communities in Area C, the 62% of the West Bank controlled by Israel. The solar energy has replaced expensive and clunky oil-powered generators.

According to the Israeli authorities, these solar panels – along with six others in nearby villages – are illegal and have been slated for demolition.

Nihad Moor, 25, has three small children. The family live in a two-room tent kitted out with a fridge, TV and very old computer. She also has a small electric butter churn, which she uses to supplement her husband's small income from sheep farming.

"The kids get sick all the time. At the moment, because of a change in the weather, they all have colds. Without electricity I wouldn't even be able to see to help them when they need to use the [outdoor] toilet at night," Moor says. "I don't want to imagine what life would be like here if [the panels] were demolished."

Imneizil's solar system was built in 2009 by the Spanish NGO Seba at a cost of €30,000 to the Spanish government. According to the Israeli authorities, it was built without a permit.
World newspapers and bloggers seized on the idea that Israel was heartlessly demolishing the power source for this tiny village.

In fact, the entire village is illegal, and was built only in recent years:
Major Guy Inbar, a spokesman for Israeli military authorities, said of the demolition orders: "All the tents and buildings have been built illegally. Of course the solar panels were also built illegally. Using the backing of international assistance does not give immunity to violations." He stressed, however, that no final decision has been taken yet regarding the fate of the panels and turbines and that a subcommittee of military administrators is studying the matter.

Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, denies that Israel is harming peace prospects through its policies in Area C. "We are acting in the framework of signed agreements. We were willing to move forward to sign more agreements, but that is not happening because the Palestinians refuse to negotiate." Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has made an Israeli freeze on settlements in the West Bank a precondition to resuming peace talks.

This idea of funding illegal development projects in Area C did not originate with the Palestinian Arabs. As the incident above illustrates, it was first thought of by European NGOs, working outside the framework of the Oslo accords.

And last year, the EU itself released a paper showing that they also want to sidestep Oslo and use these gimmicks to pressure Israel politically.

State building efforts in Area C of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the EU are therefore of utmost importance in order to support the creation of a contiguous and viable Palestinian state. Full and effective Palestinian development of Area C will require the re-designation of Area C to Areas A and B. This objective has to be pursued at the political level. Enabling measures should, however, be pursued in the interim to support Palestinian presence in and development of this area.
Among the EU report recommendations:
Supporting development projects in Area C including by for example building new schools, community centers, clinics, municipal buildings, roads, irrigation, water and other infrastructural projects.

Supporting Palestinian private sector development in Area C in areas such as tourism, site protection, industrial parks, wastewater treatment, solid waste, landfills, water pipelines, electricity infrastructures etc.

Enabling the PLO/PA to plan and develop programs in Area C.

The new PA document mirrors the EU recommendations from last year of bypassing Oslo and Israeli law and building in Area C without coordination or even a master plan.

The intent is clear: to embarrass and pressure Israel. The Guardian played its role perfectly. After all, who can be against clean solar energy? Only a monster, it seems, would demolish solar panels sorely needed by a village that sprung up sometime in the past decade.

Interestingly, the EU officially says that it does not want to circumvent existing agreements between Israel and the PLO:
From the Commission prospectives, beyond this emergency situation, its is important the framework established by the Tripartite Action Plan must not be destroyed. The achievement of Paris meeting of 9 January 1996 must not be cast aside.

The PA's announcement yesterday must be seen in the entire context of a major international attempt to circumvent the Oslo accords and to pressure Israel. If only the same effort would be made to pressure the PLO to go back to the negotiating table.

Obviously, when the PLO feels that Europe will do all their work for them, they won't even consider negotiations. These initiatives are meant to bypass talks and to go straight to the PLO-demanded final solution of taking land without any compromise or concessions. It is no wonder that the PLO feels that it can ignore peace talks - it knows that Europe is backing them up.