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Part concerning the State of Israel
1. Overview of the human rights and democracy situation: Israel is a democracy with well-established and independent institutions, free media and “basic laws” enumerating fundamental rights. Following the adoption of the so-called “Jewish Nation State Law”, a wide internal debate continued about its potential effects on equality and minority rights, and about the balance between the self-defining characters of the State of Israel as Jewish and democratic. The gap between Jewish and Arab communities remained despite simultaneous effective efforts to raise the Arab sector's socio-economic status. During the municipal elections some local branches of political parties used stigmatising language against the Arab minority. Human rights NGOs continue to raise concerns over shrinking space for civil society, including laws and proposals deemed to further tighten rules governing the operations of NGOs and denials of entry of individuals alleged to support boycotting Israel or settlements.
In the occupied Palestinian territory, where Israel has obligations as an occupying power under International Humanitarian Law, the human rights situation remained difficult, including a rise in incidents of violence and vandalism by settlers, and concerns over the use of force and inadequate law enforcement by Israeli security forces.
2. EU action - key focus areas: Similarly to previous years, the EU focused on five priority areas set out in the EU Human Rights and Democracy Country Strategy for Israel (HRDCS) (2016-2020): Israel's responsibilities as an occupying power; children and armed conflict; upholding democratic values; situation of Arab minority; asylums seekers, migrants and foreign workers.
3. EU bilateral political engagement: EU actions in 2018 have focused on implementation of the five priorities of the HRDCS. The EU was actively following specific draft legislative initiatives. The EU Delegation together with EU Member States marked Human Rights Day and 70 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The EU visited a shelter for victims of trafficking in human beings, had discussions with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and civil society organisations (CSOs) on the impact of International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law as well as a roundtable discussion with families of missing Israeli soldiers and civilians in Gaza.
The EU Delegation actively presented the EU position against the death penalty when draft legislation on this topic was submitted in Israeli Knesset.
The EU remained active on the issue of shrinking space for civil society. The EU took a clear position on unfounded accusations by the Israeli government against EU funding of CSOs. The EU closely followed the situation of human rights activists and hosted a briefing by Omar Shakir, Israel-Palestine Director of Human Rights Watch who had received a deportation order, which was later overturned. The EU Delegation attended his trial in the Jerusalem District Court and the EEAS issued a statement.
In the framework of the Children and Armed Conflict working group, the EU engaged in the dialogue with the Ministry of Welfare's probation officers dealing with Palestinian children in East Jerusalem as well as visited a youth facility for Arab minority and East Jerusalem Palestinian youth in Northern Israel. The EU remained engaged in information exchange and attendance of Palestinian minors' trials.
The EU was active on the topic of migration and asylum and discussed with the authorities Israel's policies with regard to Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers. On World Refugee Day, the EU organised a tour of a migrants' clinic (run by NGOs) and a briefing on health issues.
The EU engaged in activities regarding human rights of the Arab minority in Israel. The EEAS issued a statement calling for an investigation into circumstances that appeared to have led to the injury of Jafar Farah, Director of the NGO Mossawa (the Israeli police subsequently announced it expected to indict a police officer in relation to this event), and the EU Head of Delegation visited Mr Farah. The EU continued its work on the rights of Bedouin in the Negev and followed Israeli municipality elections also from the Arab population´s point of view. The EU has been holding numerous dialogues with representatives of religious minorities, including the Bahai community and Jewish ultra-Orthodox religious communities.
4. EU financial engagement: The EU supports a number of human rights projects in 2018 in Israel and in the occupied Palestinian territory under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), covering respect for human rights and International Humanitarian Law, advancing the human rights of Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel in the Naqab/Negev, creating safer communities in Arab towns, or decreasing the isolation of vulnerable minorities, including those with disabilities. Through this programme, the EU also supported the production of several policy reports disseminated through political briefings and/or submission to relevant UN bodies, including for example a report to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, submitted in February 2018 by the Rackman Centre of Bar Ilan University. In addition, through an EIDHR project, implemented by the Minerva Center of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, many civil society actors received capacity building support in understanding and interacting with the various UN Monitoring Bodies.
5. Multilateral context: Israel’s human rights record was addressed in the context of the 29th session of the UN Human Rights Council's (HRC) Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva in January 2018 when Israel was reviewed for the third time. The EU continued its cooperation with Israeli NGOs which submitted contributions to the HRC ahead of Israel's UPR. The main issues raised by civil society included: excessive use of administration detention, freedom of movement, definition of torture, the situation of the Bedouin minority, asylum seekers, children and armed conflict and marriage and divorce issues. The EU was also in contact with Israeli ministries regarding the UPR.
The complete report can be found here