The EU has yet to collectively agree to seek restitution for European taxpayers from Israel when it demolishes EU-funded schools, shelters and other facilities in Palestine.
Tánaiste Simon Coveney said Israel had demolished emergency shelters, schools and water and power supply facilities, including water tanks and solar panels, that had been provided by the EU or its member states as humanitarian relief. In almost all cases Israel’s destruction of these facilities was illegal under international law.
An association providing humanitarian aid and involving nine EU members, including Ireland, sought compensation from Israel in three cases.
Mr Coveney said: “Israeli authorities have replied that these structures had no planning permission, while ignoring their own systematic refusal to grant such permission to local communities.”
The association, known as the West Bank Consortium, also includes the European Commission’s humanitarian aid wing – the Echo (European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations) directorate general.
The consortium’s aim is to “highlight the unacceptability of these practices, and to seek restitution for the loss to European taxpayers”, the Tánaiste told Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan.
Ms O’Sullivan, in a written parliamentary question, asked “if compensation will be systematically demanded each time a structure is demolished”. She called on the Tánaiste to raise the matter at EU level.
Mr Coveney said: “I believe 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 pressed for this at EU level. However, there is not yet agreement among EU members to do so.”
He reiterated Ireland’s commitment to recognising the state of Palestine as part of a lasting settlement to the conflict. The Tánaiste has previously said recognition of the state of Israel should be done on an EU-wide basis, but “I am very mindful of the situation on the ground, and I will be ready to look again at recognition if progress is not being made towards a comprehensive peace agreement”.
He confirmed in the Dáil this week that he was exploring the possibility of bringing a number of European and Arab ministers to Dublin to consider next steps in terms of a “political conversation”.
He added that “we are also keeping open the dialogue with the Israeli government” and he met the outgoing ambassador this week.
He had also met US representatives to encourage its work towards the possibility of relaunching a peace process.
The Tánaiste said he did not believe a Middle East deal could be done without the US being central to it, “but I believe that other countries need to be involved to reassure Palestinians that they have friends around the table” given the deterioration of their relationship with the US in the past 12 months in particular.
Mr Coveney added: “I do not want to overstate how influential Ireland might be. We are a relatively small player, but we speak to all of the key partners.”
Source: Irish Times