For several years the European Union has been carrying out a program of funding illegal Palestinian construction in Judea and Samaria. But when Israel recently demolished an illegally built school in a vacant Bedouin encampment, the EU took it one step further and demanded that Israel reimburse them for their endeavors.
The official Twitter account for the European Union Delegation to the Palestinians posted on Friday, “Appalled by the demolition of the EU-funded school in Ein Samiya in the Occupied West Bank. Call on Israel to respect Palestinian children’s right to education and to compensate the EU for the funding lost.”
The tweet did not state the cost of the school that was made of modular units transported to the site last year or the expected compensation. The number of residents is unclear though it reportedly served 17 children until the illegal community was evacuated this summer. A J-Post article in May reported that 178 residents, including 78 children, were evacuated as the location was developed illegally. This implied that the location is currently unoccupied. At the time of the evacuation, the only structures standing were clearly not permanent.
UNICEF Palestine tweeted, “In the last 12 months, 3 #schools were demolished affecting 78 students. Some 58 schools remain under the threat of demolition.”
It should be noted that Ein Samiya is less than 2.5 miles from Kfar Malik, a Palestinian village of some 2,700 permanent residents
Ein Samiya is in Area C as designated by the Oslo Accords and construction may only be carried out under the supervision of and with the permission of the Israeli authorities. The EU is a cosignatory of the Accords and pledged to abide by the agreements.
The unrecognized community had applied for permission to build a primary school on Israeli state land that had been denied. Despite the court ruling and the illegality, the EU provided funding to place modular units at the site. The Israeli government obtained a court order to halt construction but this was ignored. The court ordered the units to be removed and denied all subsequent appeals.
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, the head of the Religious Zionism party, ordered the demolition of the structure. Smotrich heads the Civil Administration in the Defense Ministry, which is in charge of bureaucratic matters such as building permits in Judea and Samaria.
“The State of Israel will not allow illegal construction and Arab takeover of the open spaces,” said Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who ordered the demolition. “I thank the Civil Administration and the security forces who enforced the law today near Ein Samiya and cleared the structures that were erected in violation of the law in a deliberate attempt to take control of the open spaces and establish facts on the ground.”
According to the Regavim Movement, which monitors illegal Palestinian construction in Area C, such work increased by 80% over the “already alarming rate” of the previous year, with 5535 new illegal structures built compared to 3076 structures in the same period in 2021. In comparison, illegal Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria, which has been cited as the “obstacle to peace”, amounted to 406 structures.
Over the past 20 years, illegal construction by Israelis totaled a mere 4,382 structures, fewer than what Palestinians built in the past year alone.
By not exerting the control it legally has as per the Oslo Accords, “The Israeli government is creating a de facto Palestinian state,“ the NGO said.
Regavim filed a complaint about this school in Ein Samiya several years ago. When the residents were evacuated from the site, the UN claimed it was to make room for settlers. The residents claimed it was due to the “violence from settlers”.
Tamar Sikuriel, a spokesperson for Regavim, suggested a different reason.
“As the data suggests, the Israeli government is reluctant to destroy illegal Arab construction,” Sikuriel said. “The building had been vacant for some time but the IDF was concerned that Israeli ‘hilltop youth’ would occupy the site. So they tore it down to prevent Jews from settling a vacant Ein Samiya.”
Last year, a confidential EU document was leaked to the media in which it was revealed that the international body is working with and on behalf of the Palestinian Authority to take over Area C of Judea and Samaria, with the overall objective of integrating the region with Areas A and B.
Naomi Kahn, the group’s international spokesperson, told Israel365 News that the UN violated international law and the Oslo Accords for several years by “pouring millions of dollars into projects that support the Palestinian Authority’s systematic program to unilaterally establish a state.”
These construction projects included schools and frequently caused irreparable damage to archaeological sites of Biblical origin.
As its name suggests (“Ein” is Arabic and Hebrew for a natural spring), Ein Samiya is the location of a water source which is no longer active. It has historically been a seasonal grazing site for Bedouin flocks and Ottoman records show little or no population.
Ein Samiya is adjacent to Kochav Hashachar, a Jewish Community with a population of over 2,500 overlooking the Jordan Valley.
It is believed to be the location of Baal-shalisha described in the Book of II Kings 4:42.