Israel Delays Auction of Prefab Classrooms That EU Donated Palestinians

YERUSHALAYIM -

Israel’s Civil Administration in Yehudah and Shomron has postponed a public auction of prefab classrooms and other materials donated to the Palestinians by the European Union. The administration confiscated this equipment last fall, claiming the structures had been built illegally.

The one-month postponement of the auction, slated to be held by the Israel Defense Ministry this week, comes after the EU reportedly rejected a deal whereby the structures would be returned to Europe in return for their commitment not to restore them to the West Bank without proper building and planning authorization.

EU sources have denied receiving an official proposal to that effect from Israel, Haaretz reported, adding that the one-month postponement was declared in the hope that it will allow time for Israel and the EU to negotiate a solution.

In October 2018 Israel’s Civil Administration – the civil-military body that administers Israel’s policies in the territories – dismantled and seized two prefabricated buildings intended to be used as classrooms for 49 schoolchildren in the village of Ibziq near Shechem. The following month it confiscated two tents and three metal sheds from a village in the Jordan Valley. In both cases, the Civil Administration claimed that the structures were erected without building permits or planning permission.

Such confiscations are common in both Arab villages and Jewish outpost communities. Usually, the Civil Administration auctions these items 90 days after their confiscation.

EU officials claim that while they are in violation of Israeli law by erecting the structures they donate to the Palestinians, they claim that under international law they are allowed to do so. Israel rejects this claim.

An Israeli defense establishment source said that a Civil Administration leader had proposed to the EU that the seized structures would be returned to it if they would sign a document stating they would not erect them illegally again. The EU rejected the offer and refused to receive the confiscated items, Haaretz reported.

A spokesperson for the Coordinator of Government Activities said the postponement was made for technical reasons, unrelated to EU pressure.

Meanwhile, the EU missions in Yerushalayim and Ramallah called on Israel to “return the confiscated items to their intended beneficiaries without precondition as soon as possible; otherwise to provide compensation without delay for the dismantled and confiscated assets,” adding that “the direct financial injury to donors caused by these seizures amounts to €15,320.”