Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin has joined calls for Israel to pay compensation for aid donated by the European Union that is “habitually” being destroyed in demolitions of Palestinian settlements.
As previously reported by The Irish Times, Israeli forces have repeatedly destroyed structures such as tents, solar panels and shelters donated to Palestinian families by a European Union umbrella aid group that includes the Irish state.
In advance of a meeting with Palestinian prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh at a gathering of foreign affairs ministers in Brussels, Mr Martin backed calls for Israel to pay compensation for the destroyed aid.
“I don’t think it’s acceptable that on an ongoing basis, the European Union is contributing very significant aid to Palestinians and to Palestinian infrastructure, for it to be habitually destroyed,” he told The Irish Times.
“There should be recompense when that happens.”
Most recently, the Israeli Defence Forces destroyed a donor-funded school in Masafer Yatta, a collection of Palestinian hamlets in the occupied West Bank, where residents have been issued demolition orders and told they will be imminently displaced.
In response to this the EU’s diplomatic arm issued a statement deploring the move and recalling that “demolitions are illegal under international law”.
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Mr Martin said the expulsions were “provocative” and hindered the prospect of reaching a two-state solution.
“The ongoing settlement issue, and particularly Masafer Yatta is not acceptable in terms of the mass expulsion of people essentially, and that is in our view, unacceptable from a humanitarian perspective, is provocative,” Mr Martin said.
Since 2016, structures funded by the European Union totalling over €2.25 million have been destroyed by the Israeli government in demolitions, according to a group of members of the European Parliament who have called on the European Commission to demand compensation for the destroyed aid.
In response, the commission’s crisis response chief Janez Lenarčič said the executive was keeping track of all demolitions and confiscations of donor-funded structures but that “at this stage a list of possible options to secure compensation from Israel for EU funding lost in demolitions has not been discussed”.
Mr Martin said there was a “fragmented position” among EU member state governments regarding the issue of Israel and Palestine, making unanimous agreement difficult, but that Ireland would “work with others to see what we can do to put pressure on” regarding the destruction of aid.
In May, the Israeli supreme court rejected appeals against eviction orders issued to Palestinian residents of Masafer Yatta, opening the way for the defence forces to clear the area and use it for military training.
The ruling put 1,200 Palestinian residents including 500 children at risk of forcible eviction, according to a statement by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The new hardline government led by Binyamin Netanyahu has promised to increase settlements in occupied Palestinian territories and includes the ultranationalist Religious Zionism party, which advocates for the outright annexation of the West Bank. The territory was captured by Israel in 1967 along with the Gaza Strip, and is considered to be illegally occupied by the United Nations.