Netherlands outraged after Israel seizes Dutch-funded solar panels in West Bank – Maan July 3, 2017

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The Netherlands has reacted with outrage after Israeli authorities seized dozens of solar panels in a remote occupied West Bank village that were donated by the Dutch government.

Israeli forces confiscated the solar panels in the isolated village of Jubbet al-Dhib east of Bethlehem on Wednesday that were installed last year, under the pretext that they were built without the nearly impossible to obtain permits required by Israel to develop in Area C — the 61 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli military control.

A report Saturday by Israeli news daily Haaretz cited a statement from the Dutch Foreign Ministry, that said the Dutch government lodged a protest with Israel over the confiscation of the electricity equipment, which was said to be a hybrid power system of both diesel and solar power.

The Dutch government-donated electrification project in the southern Bethlehem region cost about 500,000 euros, 350,00 euros of which went to Jubbet al-Dhib, according to the report.

The Dutch Foreign Ministry has requested Israel return the equipment and is “currently assessing what next steps can be taken,” the ministry’s statement to Haaretz said.

However, according to Haaretz, “A source close to Dutch diplomats in the West Bank told Haaretz that these softly worded statements cover the anger brewing in the government of the Netherlands, a close friend of Israel’s, at the damage to the humanitarian project.”

Ma’an reported at the time that 60 solar panels were seized, though Haaretz said that in fact 96 panels were taken down, in addition to other electronic equipment of the system that was also seized, which was funded by the Dutch and installed about nine months ago by the Israeli-Palestinian organization Comet-ME, which builds water and energy systems for Palestinians.

According to the report, Comet-ME implemented the project with the assistance of the town’s women’s committee using environmentally and socially sustainable methods.

The mayor of the village told Ma’an at the time of the raid that the solar panels were confiscated as well as destroyed, but Haaretz cited Comet-ME as clarifying that items were taken by Israeli forces intact, while equipment that was not seized was destroyed by Israeli forces and left behind.

The cost of the confiscated and damaged equipment is valued at 40,000 euros, though the material and social damage is “much greater, as their seizure immediately resulted in the loss of power for the 30 families in the village and its public buildings,” Haaretz wrote.

On the day of the raid, a spokesperson for COGAT, the Israeli agency responsible enforcing Israeli policies in the occupied territory, told Ma’an that stop-work orders had been delivered for the equipment, however, according to Haaretz, orders to cease construction and confiscation orders were given to the residents only during the raid itself, and not prior to the raid, “as is required by planning and construction laws.”

“Had orders been given in advance the village and its representatives could have taken administrative or legal action,” the report stressed.

“We emphasize that the village has other electricity sources,” COGAT also told Ma’an at the time. According to Haaretz, this likely refered to “a couple of noisy and polluting generators from aid organizations, which supply power for three hours a day,” which were received after Israel confiscated a solar-powered public lighting system in 2009.

Some 150 Palestinians reside in Jubbet al-Dhib, which is neighbored by the illegal Noqedim settlement — home to Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman — as well as the illegal El David settlement, in addition a number of Israeli outposts, that, despite being illegal even under Israeli domestic law, still enjoy connection to the power grid and access to other infrastructure, according to Haaretz.

Meanwhile, all Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are considered illegal under international law.

“In order to contribute in reducing the suffering of the people of the village, help them to stay in their lands by protecting it from the ambitions of the Israeli occupation to confiscate it, the idea of using solar technology to light up the village streets, as well as lighting the village gathering center (the mosque) was considered,” ARIJ wrote in a village profile in 2010.

However, Israeli authorities have continued to refuse to grant a license for the project, forcing residents and NGOs to carry on with the solar panel installation without Israeli permission.

“The Israeli civil administration’s decision not to grant a license to implement the project of solar energy technology in Jubbet al-Dhib village means depriving the Palestinian residents of their most simple human rights of access to the most basic rights such as: education, health, the right to work, and the sense of humanity,” the report said.

ARIJ affirmed that the Israeli restrictions represented a violation of international human rights law and “confirms the continuation of Israeli policy towards Palestinians to increase their suffering by causing people to leave their homes, and controls Palestinian lands in order to expand Israeli settlements.”

“This policy does not only include Jubbet al-Dhib village, but almost ten Palestinian villages, which suffer from the lack of services and development projects,” the group wrote at the time.
Netherlands Says It Will Continue Projects for Palestinians Without Israel’s OK – Haaretz

PM Rutte protested to Netanyahu the recent confiscation of Dutch-funded solar energy installation
Amira Hass Jul 07, 2017

The Netherlands will continue to finance humanitarian projects in the occupied Palestinian territories if they have received no permit from Israel, Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders told his country’s parliament on Tuesday.

His speech provided a glimpse into The Netherlands’ efforts, as well as those of other countries, to persuade Israel to allow humanitarian aid in Area C, which makes up about 60 percent of the West Bank.

The discussion began with questions posed to Koenders by several parliamentarians about an ecological electricity system The Netherlands had financed in the West Bank village of Jubbet adh-Dhib. The system’s solar panels and other vital parts had been confiscated by Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank the previous Wednesday.

Koenders said this issue has been raised at “the highest level”: Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte protested the confiscations to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when they met last weekend (apparently at former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s funeral), and Netanyahu promised to look into the matter.

Moreover, Koenders said, the Dutch Embassy in Israel issued a stiffly worded protest about the confiscations, and the Dutch government has engaged Israeli authorities “at all levels” to have equipment returned.

Koenders reiterated several times that Israel’s conduct on this issue was unacceptable and said the Dutch government had made this “unequivocally” clear.

Raymond de Roon, a parliamentarian from Geert Wilders’ far-right Party of Freedom, expressed confidence in Israel’s rule of law, adding that for The Netherlands to be funding projects which don’t have permits is “stupid.”

“Money is given to a project of which the minister doesn’t know whether it has a permit or will get one,” he said. “Thus, the minister consciously takes the risk that the stuff will be taken and confiscated. I consider this a stupid and unwise way of dealing with our taxpayer’s tax money. I call on the government to stop this.”

But Koenders said that under no circumstances would The Netherlands stop.

“We won’t do that, absolutely not,” he said. “The United Nations, the European Union and various development organizations won’t do so either. It is important that we have an obligation to help people in the occupied territories in the manner in which we currently do.

“Of course, we are in close contact with the Israeli government,” he added. “It’s a friendly country, so we’ll continue discussing it. However, I find this modus operandi [by Israel] unacceptable. This is about people who have been without electricity for 30, 40 years, while the Israeli government doesn’t take its responsibility for them and then refuses all permits.

“The Dutch government has tried, in various ways – and that applies to all international organizations, the UN and EU partners – to work with permits,” Koenders continued. “The Netherlands leaves it to the implementing organizations to coordinate with the Israeli authorities. This is also standard practice of the UN and all development organizations. The implementing organization informed the army beforehand, without getting a response.

“Of course, as the occupying power, Israel has the responsibility to ensure that people can live properly and at the least has to live up to the humanitarian basic conditions,” he added. “That is currently not the case.”

Koenders said that so far, The Netherlands’ efforts to improve the situation in Area C haven’t succeeded, and therefore, he considers his government’s reaction in this case to be “sensible.”

“The pattern [of demolitions] hasn’t been stopped, despite regular, highly diplomatic protests by the Dutch side,” he said. “We are in close contact about the matter with other member states. … Asking support from other member states is also one of the options we are considering. We will also discuss this with our EU allies, because it is of importance that this won’t happen again.”

Koenders said the Dutch government had tried, as an “experiment,” to get permits for another project in Area C from “the highest level” of the Israeli government, but “the experience wasn’t positive. After we had waited for six months, Israel decided negatively.” Therefore, he said, trying to get permits isn’t a viable option, or in his words “an impassable way.”

A Dutch source told Haaretz that Koenders was referring to an effort made during Netanyahu’s visit to The Netherlands on September 6, 2016. During that visit, both Rutte and Koenders raised the issue of demolitions of EU- and Dutch-funded projects in Area C, as well as Israel’s refusal to grant permits for such projects.

Netanyahu requested that The Netherlands file an official request for permits before projects are implemented, adding that the chances of it being approved would then be high, the source continued. But six months after the request was filed, it was rejected.
read more: