[French diplomat Marion Fesneau-Castaing said Israeli soldiers was dragged from her vehicle]
By Elham Asaad Buaras
Europe’s relations with Israel has deteriorated to a new low over illegal Israeli settlements and the destruction of EU aid projects for Palestinians, according to EU diplomats.
Last month, the EU demanded Israel explain the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) manhandling of its diplomats who travelled along with aid organisations including the Red Cross to deliver tents to Bedouin Palestinian families whose homes were demolished in the occupied West Bank.
Not only did Israeli soldiers manhandle European diplomats they seized a truck full of tents and emergency aid destined for Palestinian villagers from Khirbet Al-Makhul in the northern Jordan Valley for 120 Bedouin whose homes were demolished after the High Court of Justice ruled that they were constructed without the proper building permits.
A Reuters reporter saw soldiers throw sound grenades at a group of diplomats, aid workers and locals in the occupied West Bank, and yank a French diplomat out of the truck before driving away with its contents.
“They dragged me out of the truck and forced me to the ground with no regard for my diplomatic immunity,” Attaché at the French consulate in Jerusalem Marion Castaing said.
“This is how international law is being respected here,” she said, covered with dust.
The Israeli army and police declined to comment.
A diplomat posted to the Jerusalem consulate of an EU country said, “The frustration with Israel is very high. It’s difficult to deal normally with a country that consistently violates international law.”
In July the EU announced new guidelines that would bar its agencies from aiding or financing Israeli illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. Since then, Israeli authorities have barred officials working for EU institutions from accessing the Gaza Strip.
The EU is Israel’s largest trading partner – in 2011, their trade totaled nearly $40 billion.
Director of the European Council on Foreign Relations’ Middle East programme, Daniel Levy, said the growth of illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem rendering a Palestinian state unfeasible was to blame for the deterioration in EU Israeli relations.
“They get a map and they see all these settlements and they think: so where exactly is this Palestinian state going to be?” said Levy.
Settlements are illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention, which forbids occupying powers from moving their citizens on to war secured land, such as the Palestinian territories that Israel captured in the 1967 war. More than 500,000 Israeli settlers now live in those areas.
Between 2001 and 2011, Israel destroyed roughly $66m of European-supported development and humanitarian projects in those territories, according to estimates by the European Commission.