Join us Donate

Ashley Fox – Conservative

Thank you for your email concerning Palestine.

International law regards the Arab territories occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, to be illegal, and the EU and its constituent Member States respect this judgement. In light of this, the EU’s position has been that any free trade agreements do not cover territories outside of Israel’s 1967 borders. This position was concretely reasserted in guidelines published by the European Commission, which excluded entities based in Israeli Occupied Territories from access to EU grants and funding as of January 2014. Under these guidelines, EU Member States are entitled to reject duty free access to goods which they believe to be incorrectly labelled regarding their provenance.

I have raised a number of my concerns about Israel and its treatment of Palestinians with the European Commission. Please find below a copy of their responses.

Yours sincerely

Ashley Fox

Question to the Commission: Israeli water allocation policies

A number of my constituents have raised concerns about Israeli water allocation policies, following the United Nations’ World Water Day on 22 March 2011.

The Middle East is one of the world’s most water-stressed regions. According to information supplied in connection with World Water Day, Israeli water allocation policies have led to disparities in the quality and quantity of water accessible to Palestinians. Israel’s refusal to permit infrastructure development in Gaza and parts of the West Bank has left many communities without essential water and sanitation services and has prevented the implementation of humanitarian assistance projects.

What action is the Commission taking to encourage Israel to provide equitable access to water resources and sanitation services in the Palestinian Territories?

Will the Commission be raising this issue at the next meeting of the EU Israel Political Dialogue and Cooperation Sub-committee?

What action is the Commission taking to encourage Israel to allow more humanitarian assistance to reach the Palestinian Territories?

Response from the Commission

The European Union (EU) is aware of the challenges related to the access to and to the management of water resources shared between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). It consistently encourages both parties to address all final status issues, including water, during negotiations.

In this context, the EU has also earmarked water and wastewater as one of its priority sectors for financial assistance to the Palestinian people. The EU aims to support the Palestinian Water Authority to provide collective sanitation, treatment of wastewater and re-use part of it for agriculture purposes.

In the framework of its regular dialogue with the Israeli authorities, the EU has raised its concern regarding the situation of water in the oPt, in particular the destruction of water and sanitation infrastructure during Israeli military incursions. The EU also insists that there should be no obstruction to water-related infrastructure development in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

The EU regularly raised the issue of access to humanitarian assistance with Israeli counterparts. With regard to Gaza in particular, the EU has repeatedly called for an immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from Gaza.

Question to the Commission: Israeli Supreme Court Ruling

One of my constituents has expressed concern over a recent ruling by Israel’s Supreme Court. The Court has decided that Israeli companies are entitled to profit from West Bank resources. This verdict came as a result of a petition by the Israeli human rights organisation Yesh Din which argued that mining in the West Bank, which is worth USD 900 million to Israeli companies, is illegal under Articles 43 and 55 of the Fourth Hague Convention.

What steps are being taken by the Vice-President/High Representative on the matter?

Response from the Commission

High Representative/Vice-President Ashton is aware of the judgment rendered by the High Court of Justice of Israel on 26 December 2011. The European External Action Service is currently examining the implications of this ruling and its compatibility with the Oslo Accords and International Humanitarian Law. It will seek further clarification from interested parties.

The EU Delegation in Tel Aviv is monitoring further developments on this issue, in particular any decision that may be taken by Yesh Din to pursue other legal avenues.

Question to the Commission: EU funding of the Ahava company

A constituent has recently brought to my attention the involvement of Ahava in the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7). Ahava is an Israeli cosmetics company with the majority of its operations based in the Occupied Territories.

1. Can the Commissioner confirm whether EU research funds have been provided to Ahava and in what capacity?

2. Does the funding of companies based in the Occupied Territories contravene the terms of the EU-Israel Association Agreement whereby goods from the Occupied Territories are not entitled to receive preferential market access?

Response from the Commission

AHAVA laboratories are established in Israel under Israeli law and not in the Occupied Palestinian Territories even though it is known to carry out work in the Israeli settlements in those territories. Goods produced in areas beyond Israel’s pre-1967 borders are not entitled to preferential treatment upon their import into the EU under the Association Agreement.

The EU-Israel Association Agreement does not regulate the funding of research by Israeli entities. Instead the funding of such entities is subject to the Agreement on scientific and technical cooperation between the European Community and the State of Israel. The funding of research in this particular case does not contravene the latter agreement.

Question to the Commission: Treatment of Palestinian child prisoners

A constituent has recently brought to my attention the plight of Palestinian children being arrested by the Israeli authorities. I am informed that 700 Palestinian children are arrested in Israel every year, of whom 170 are currently imprisoned and one is being held under administrative detention.

These children are allegedly not permitted to see their families and are subjected to interrogation unaccompanied by an adult.

1. Is the Commissioner aware of this situation concerning the detention of Palestinian children?

2. What action has the Commission taken, or will it take, to ensure that Israel adheres to its human right commitments with regard to Palestinian children?

Response from the Commission

The EU continues to voice its concerns about the treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli judicial and detention system. As reported in the 2012 European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) Country Progress Report on Israel, by the end of 2011 there were 4 281 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, of which 135 were children. There was also one minor in administrative detention at the end of 2011.

Although the raising of the majority age from 16 to 18 in the military law applicable to the occupied Palestinian territory in September 2011 was a welcome development, the EU remains concerned about insufficient protection of children during arrest and detention, in particular the failure to permit children to be accompanied by a lawyer and parent during questioning. Cases of solitary confinement of children continue, in contravention of Article 16 of the Convention against Torture. Around 90% of children are still denied bail in violation of the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child and most Palestinian children are still detained inside Israel in violation of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

The EU has repeatedly conveyed its concerns about these practices to the Israeli authorities in the framework of its regular political and human rights dialogue. The EU has stated, most recently on the occasion of the July 2012 EU-Israel Association Council, that that any future upgrade in relations must be based on the shared values of both parties, and particularly on democracy and respect for human rights, the rule of law and fundamental freedoms, good governance and international humanitarian law.