Thursday, 4 October 2018
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
11. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the steps taken by the Government since it first demanded compensation from Israel for the destruction of EU-funded structures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40301/18]
The demolition by Israel of structures belonging to inhabitants of occupied territory, including both Palestinian territory and the Golan, is in almost all cases illegal under international law, in our view. This includes structures provided by the EU or its member states as humanitarian relief in the form of emergency shelters for people or animals, schools, and structures for water and power supply, such as water tanks and solar panels.
Ireland is a member of the West Bank Protection Consortium, comprising nine EU members plus the ECHO Directorate General of the European Commission, which deals with humanitarian relief. Since late 2017, consortium donors have sought compensation or restitution for structures funded by the consortium or its members which have been demolished or confiscated. To date, there have been three such requests for compensation. Israeli authorities have replied that these structures had no planning permission. This ignores the fact that the Israeli authorities systematically refuse to grant such permission to local communities. The purpose of this action is to highlight the unacceptability of these practices, and to seek restitution for the loss to European taxpayers. The principle, rather than the money, was the main focus of the action.
I believe that it is right that the EU and its member states should consistently seek compensation from Israel for the demolition or confiscation of such structures. My officials have also pressed for this to happen at EU level. However, there is not yet agreement among EU members to do so.
In October 2011, Ireland and eight other EU member states, as part of what is known as the West Bank Protection Consortium, protested against the demolition or confiscation of structures on the West Bank which provided humanitarian relief from the EU and other members and formally demanded compensation from the Israeli authorities. We welcome that initiative and I would appreciate if the Minister would redouble our efforts in this area.
The Minister referenced planning permission and it is a reality that Israel rarely, if ever, grants planning permission to anyone within Palestine. Since the demand for compensation was made, almost a year ago, has there been any real progress? Will the Minister update the House on his engagement with EU member states on the issue?
In the course of the announcement by the Trump Administration to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, President Trump said, "This is nothing more, or less, than the recognition of reality." That has been widely interpreted, along with many other aspects of his speech, as meaning that his Administration's position on the conflict will determine the clear realities created by Israel, including the settlements. The settlements are proceeding, and with them the fragmentation of the West Bank and Palestine. Is there going to be an impetus from the EU in respect of these matters and the destruction of EU-funded structures? There seems to have been an absence of any such impetus so far.
I think the Deputy and I agree on most things relating to this issue. In our view the expansion of settlements in the West Bank continues to undermine the viability of a two-state solution. The issues around Khan al-Ahmar, a relatively small Bedouin community, are very significant because of its strategic location. The international community will judge interested parties on whether they are serious about negotiating a two-state solution by what happens in that case. The international community will watch closely to see what happens there, and it continues to appeal to Israel not to demolish that village. We need to work with all parties here to find a peace solution that everyone can sign up to. Despite the setbacks of the past 12 months, and there have been significant setbacks, particularly from the Palestinian perspective we remain open to talking to all sides to encourage progress.