Israel: Europe's most costly "member"
18 August 2010
Even though it is supposed to be a privileged partner of the European Union, Israel regularly targets infrastructure paid for by the EU during its attacks on Palestinians. So why is Europe not demanding compensation?
Only ruins remain of the Al Karameh orphanage in Gaza. The establishment, which was home to some 50 Palestinian children, was destroyed by the Israeli air force during Operation Cast Lead in January 2009. It had cost nearly 200,000 euros, half of which came from the Spanish agency for international cooperation (AECID) and the Olof Palme Foundation. The orphanage is but one of 78 projects financed by European funds that have been destroyed by Israeli army attacks on Palestine over the last ten years. According to a European Commission report, the total damage done exceeds 79.5 million euros (at a conservative estimate). Spain alone had solely financed eight of those projects at a cos 33 million euros.
A profitable partnership
While its army is systematically destroying European projects, Israel has managed to negotiate a very profitable Association agreement with the EU. "This Association agreement gives Israel a number of important advantages in its relationship with the European Union, in political as well as in economic terms", rejoiced the Israeli minister of foreign affairs. Europe is the principal export market for Israeli agricultural products, and Israel has purchased 637 million euros worth of such goods since 1981 through the intermediary of the European Investment Bank. Just last year, 25 million euros were granted to the Hebrew state for the construction of a desalinisation plant in Hadera, north of Tel Aviv, and this in addition to the 120 million euros already invested in 2007. On the other hand, since the beginning of the second Intifada in 2000, the Israeli government has launched a campaign of destruction targeting Palestinian installations. Airports as well as roads, bridges, electric power stations, water treatment plants, hospitals, barns and greenhouses have all suffered the collective wrath of the Israeli army.
The EU has not yet dared claim compensation from Israel for the damages caused to its projects in Palestine. "The projects financed by the EU legally belong to the Palestinian Authority, and we have no knowledge that it has lodged damage claims with Israel," admitted Benita Ferrero-Waldner, former commissioner for foreign relations, when she was questioned by MEPs last March on the subject. "To demand compensation from Israel for the expenditures that the EU has made (in Palestine) would be justified," replied Austrian MEP Johannes Swoboda.
The EU's passivity is also criticised by many international NGOs. "The problem is that the EU does not want to be the one that has to pay for the peace process, and the role of mediator has already been taken by the United States," explained Brigitte Herremans, Near East specialist for Belgian NGO Broederlijk Denle, "And the EU doesn't want to lose all its influence by putting pressure on Israel."
The most costly project destroyed by the Israeli army was the airport at Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. The site was effectively razed after numerous bombardments and the carving up of the landing strip by Israeli bulldozers. All that remain is the skeleton of the terminal. The control tower has vanished, and the landing strip has become a quarry for asphalt and other construction materials.