RAMALLAH, February 25 (JMCC) - A German sponsored project brought solar-powered electricity to herding communities in the West Bank. Now, however, Israel is threatening to demolish the project, raising diplomatic ire and highlighting its grip on most of the occupied territory, reports the
In al-Thala, 41-year-old Hakima Elayan used to spend four hours a day churning butter by hand. Now a machine does it for her, leaving her more time for her children and other household chores.
“It’s as if we are living the city life,” she said. “I can’t live without it,” she added as three of her young daughters watched a soap opera on TV. Her neighbors have also bought refrigerators, washers, TVs and butter churners.
But last month, Israel’s Civil Administration — a branch of the military dealing with Palestinian civilians — issued “stop work” orders, a precursor to demolitions, targeting solar panels and wind turbines in al-Thala and five other communities.
The installations were set up illegally, without anyone having requested a permit, the Civil Administration said, adding that the cases will be reviewed by a committee.
Elad Orian, a physicist at Comet-ME, said the group didn’t ask for permits, feeling it would have been futile because Israel considers the communities illegal. He believes demolition is still months away, and hopes political pressure by Germany, which gave more than 400,000 euros ($520,000), will save the projects.
Germany’s foreign ministry has expressed concern and said it is closely monitoring the situation in Area C.
In a similar case, deputy Polish Foreign Minister Jerzy Pomianowski summoned Israel’s ambassador to express concern over the demolition of a well in a community near al-Thala that had been rebuilt with Polish funds.
Israel said those refurbishing the wells also failed to ask for permits and ignored calls to attend a hearing.
The international community has repeatedly urged Israel to halt demolitions in Area C. Instead, the pace has accelerated, according to a new U.N. report.
Last year, 622 structures, including 222 homes, were demolished, more than 90 percent of them in Area C, an increase of nearly 50 percent from 2010, the report said. More than 1,100 Palestinians were displaced, half of them children.
The Civil Administration said it has formulated master plans for legal Palestinian construction.
However, the U.N. said 70 percent of Area C is off limits to Palestinian construction, having been allocated to settlements or the military, and that development in the remainder is heavily restricted.
“In reality, it is almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits,” the report concluded.
In contrast, critics note that Israel has allowed rapid settlement development in Area C. That includes some 100 unauthorized outposts set up since the late 1990s. Instead of tearing them down, the government has linked outposts to the electricity grid, provided roads and infrastructure and is trying to legalize some retroactively.