Since the last Association Council in February 2011, Israel’s respect for human rights and international humanitarian law (IHL) has not improved, and in many respects even deteriorated. The recent EU Council conclusions on the Middle East Peace Process issued on 14 May 2012 expressed deep concern about developments on the ground, including in East Jerusalem and Area C, which threaten to make a two-state solution impossible. Moreover, these violations in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) have severely hampered the effectiveness of the EU and Member States’ humanitarian and development policies in the OPT, in some cases directly hindering it. They have also undermined the effective implementation of the EU-PLO interim Association Agreement.
In order to maintain coherence with its declared policy, and in line with the “more for more” approach outlined in the instruments of the new European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), the EU should condition the opening of new fields of cooperation with Israel - inside or outside of the current Action Plan - on tangible improvements in Israel’s observance of its human rights and IHL obligations towards Palestinians in the OPT and, within its own territory, including towards the 1.3 million Palestinian citizens of the state of Israel. At the 9th EU-Israel association council held on 12 June 2009, the EU stated that the upgrade must be based on respect for democratic principles, human rights, the rule of law and fundamental freedoms, good governance and international humanitarian law. While APRODEV and EMHRN understand that the EU no longer envisages an upgrade of its ties with Israel, they believe that conditionality should still apply to any development of EU-Israel relations. For this reason, at the forthcoming EU-Israel Association Council, the EU should send a clear message to Israel that it cannot expect a higher degree of mutual cooperation with the EU for so long as Israel does not respect its international obligations.
Specifically, the EU should, ahead of the upcoming Association Council, immediately define clear human rights and IHL benchmarks which Israel should comply with before expanding bilateral relations with Israel. This would reflect the approach of the renewed ENP which has defined “deep democracy benchmarks” to support democratisation processes in the Arab World.
Benchmarks related to Israel’s human rights and IHL obligations in the OPT should reflect, among others, the following Israeli obligations:
- Israel’s IHL obligations as an occupying power to protect civilians, and to respect the basic IHL principles of distinction, military necessity and proportionality;
- The IHL prohibitions on:
- transferring part of the occupier’s population into the occupied territory, (i.e. settlement construction and expansion), as established in article 49.6 of the Fourth Geneva Convention;
- forcibly displacing the occupied population (including revocation of residency permits of Palestinians living in East Jerusalem);
- destroying civilian property and infrastructure;
- confiscation of private property in the occupied territory (including de facto annexation of Palestinian land by force);
- collective punishment;
- The right to family life (including measures preventing family unification between Palestinians in Israel and in the OPT);
- The right to life, including the prohibition on extra-judicial killing;
- The absolute right to be free from torture and ill-treatment;
- The fundamental right to freedom of movement;
- Respect for economic, social and cultural rights of Palestinians in the OPT;
- The right to a fair trial;
- The fight against impunity.
In line with the above-mentioned benchmarks, the EU should also condition any increased cooperation with Israel on its removal of obstacles to the implementation of the EU-PLO Interim Association Agreement.
Last but not least, the “deep democracy benchmarks” defined by the EU in its renewed ENP approach should also apply to the situation within Israel, specifically regarding freedom of association, expression and assembly, as well as the principle of non-discrimination.
At the occasion of the EU-Israel Association Council on 24 July 2012, when the human rights and humanitarian situation in Israel and the OPT are addressed, APRODEV and EMHRN demand to the EU to urge Israel to implement the following recommendations:
Human Rights and IHL in the OPT
Illegal closure of the Gaza Strip
- Immediately, unconditionally and completely lift the closure, including full freedom of movement of persons to and from the Gaza Strip, including between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, allowing exports from the Gaza Strip, including to the West Bank; allowing entry of construction and raw materials including those for the private sector; allowing entry of raw materials; expanding operations of the crossings; lifting restrictions on fuel imports; ensuring access to Gaza’s agricultural land and fishing grounds and the protection of civilians in these areas.
- Immediately deliver exit permits to patients in need of medical treatment outside the Gaza Strip and allow unimpeded access of medical supplies and equipment.
- Immediately end the total ban placed on all Palestinian students from the Gaza Strip, preventing their access to Palestinian universities in the West Bank. Israel must consider each individual application for permit objectively and allow access to students in line with international law.
Restrictions to freedom of movement, including the Barrier/Wall
- Remove restrictions on the right to freedom of movement which are not temporary, proportional and necessary for military necessity as required by IHL, particularly in the Seam Zone.
- Israel should dismantle the Barrier/Wall on Palestinian land as it violates peremptory rules of international law, as set out in the 2004 Advisory Opinion on the Wall from the International Court of Justice and is a major impediment to the two-state solution according to 1967 borders.
Forced displacement of Palestinians and demolitions of civilian infrastructures in area C of the OPT
- Take steps towards transferring the planning authority of the Civil Administration in Area C to Palestinians, in line with IHL. In the interim, recognise village masterplans and ensure fair and equitable access to water infrastructure and agricultural land for Palestinian communities.
- Comply with the IHL prohibition against “any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons” except where such destruction is rendered “absolutely necessary by military operations”. Israel should therefore suspend all demolitions of Palestinian structures and aid projects. Most urgently, Israel should immediately withdraw the demolition orders against the Palestinian village of Susiya and Al-Walaja.
- Refrain from forced displacement of Palestinians and withdraw the Civil Administration’s plan to expel tens of thousands of Bedouins from Area C.
Violation of the rights of Palestinians in East Jerusalem
- Israel should stop its violations of international law in East Jerusalem, which is an integral part of the OPT and remains under belligerent occupation. In particular, Israel should end the practice of home demolitions and ensure access to planning permits for Palestinians, stop the revocation of residency status of Palestinians residing in East Jerusalem, the ban on family unification and the forced displacement of residents.
Illegal Settlements built in the occupied territory
- Israel must reverse its settlement policy and exploitation of the natural resources of the occupied territory, including East Jerusalem, and abolish the incentives, subsidies, and exemptions favouring the Israeli settlements, as expressed by the European Council in June 2005.
- As a first step, immediately cease the confiscation of Palestinian land in Area C for settlement construction.
- Cooperate with the recently established UN “Fact-Finding mission on the implications of Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem”.
Culture of impunity in Israel
- Fully comply with its obligations to conduct independent, transparent and credible investigations in line with international standards into the alleged violations of international law - including killing of civilians, destruction of civilian property and infrastructure, cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment and torture - committed by the Israeli military and Israeli security services in the OPT and in the prisons and interrogation systems in Israel. Israel must also prosecute those allegedly responsible of violations of international law.
- Remove the serious monetary, legal and physical obstacles on Palestinians to access justice in Israel.
- Fully comply with its obligation as an Occupying Power to ensure public order and safety by ensuring that Israeli settlers who allegedly perpetrated violent acts against Palestinian civilians and their property are brought to justice in compliance with Israel’s obligations under international law such as the obligation to ensure effective remedies to the Palestinian people and equal protection before the law.
2. Human Rights in Israel
Rights of the Palestinian Arab Minority
- Rescind its decision to approve the discriminatory Prawer Plan and begin to right the historical wrongs by engaging in a meaningful dialogue with the Palestinian Arab Bedouin community and the Arab political leadership, and recognise the “unrecognised” Arab Bedouin villages and traditional land ownership in the Naqab.
- Refrain from adopting laws that discriminate against the Palestinian Arab minority and to revoke the existing discriminatory laws.
- Respect the agreements reached on 14 and 15 May 2012, including the release of administrative detainees who were promised to be set free at the end of their current orders, the renewal of family visits, the end of the practice of solitary confinement and the lifting of the punitive measures used against Palestinians in Israeli custody.
- Put an end to the arbitrary and excessive use of administrative detention in violation of international human rights law and IHL and ensure that Palestinians have access to a fair legal process.
- Immediately abolish the Unlawful Combatants Law (2002) and its amendments, which seriously violate the standards of international law and allow for arbitrary detention of persons from Gaza for unlimited periods and fail to secure fair trial for them.
- Bring the provisions of military law in line with those of Israel’s Youth Law, including the rules applicable to arrest, interrogation, trial and penalties.
- Pass Legislation criminalising torture in line with its commitments as a signatory state to the UN Convention Against Torture and ratify the optional protocol of the UN Convention against torture.
Rights of migrants and refugees
- Israel should revise the recent introduction of retrogressive legislation in the form of the new “Law to Prevent Infiltration” introduced in January 2012, and the more recent approval of arbitrary mass detention measures against asylum seekers, which violate international law.
- Voice concern regarding the lack of accessible, consistent and transparent procedures enabling recognition of individuals in need of international protection under the Refugee Convention, and recommend introduction of domestic legislation to this effect, particularly with regard to asylum seekers and torture survivors from Sudan, South Sudan and Eritrea currently denied access to such procedures.
 Council of the European Union (2012), “Council conclusions on the Middle East Peace Process”, Brussels, 14 May 2012, available at http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_Data/docs/pressdata/EN/foraff/130195.pdf.
 Council of the European Union (2009), “Relations with Israel – Adoption of the European Union’s position for the Association Council’s Ninth meeting”, Luxembourg, 15 June 2009, Brussels, 12 June 2009, available at http://register.consilium.europa.eu/pdf/en/09/st10/st10709-re03.en09.pdf.
 This could include the following benchmark: “Guarantee to persons belonging to national minorities the right to equality under the law and equal protection of the law, and prohibit any discrimination based on national belonging”. For more detailed actions see the EMHRN report “The EU and the Palestinian Arab Minority in Israel”, February 2012, p. 61, available at http://www.euromedrights.org/files.php?force&file=2011_EMHRN_Adalah_HRA_Report___EU___Arab_minority_in_Israel_415492201.pdf.