(photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
The IDF could demolish 30 of the 100 illegal structures in the Palestinian herding village of Sussiya, according to a draft of the state’s response to the High Court of Justice, submitted on Wednesday. The draft also says the question of the West Bank village’s overall fate rests with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and not solely with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.
The High Court of Justice mandated that the state submit its opinion on demolitions at Sussiya by the end of Wednesday. However, the state explained that Netanyahu needed until the end of October to review the matter, the choice being either demolitions or support for a compromise deal now in the works between the Civil Administration and villagers on the possible legalization of the structures.
Negotiations were suspended in July, as the Civil Administration awaited instructions from Liberman, a month into his job as defense minister, on how to proceed. His predecessor, Moshe Ya’alon, supported the talks.
Liberman is presumed to oppose any legalization efforts because he has in the past called for the IDF destroy the Palestinian tents and shacks located just a short distance away from an Israeli settlement by the same name.
Right-wing politicians have pressured the government to remove the structures out of a belief that the Palestinian Authority has strategically placed families there to increase its hold on that area of the South Hebron Hills.
The United States and the European Union have pressured Israel to legalize the herding village, which is located on private, Palestinian-owned agricultural lands. Given the diplomatic implications, the matter went to Netanyahu’s office for review.
The state, in its draft document, promised the court it would not move against the village until the legal were over. But it said enforcement would continue against any new buildings and against those built after 2014 legal injunctions were put in place to prevent such construction.
Regavim, a right-wing NGO promoting Jewish control of land and a party to the case, said there was a difference of opinion between Netanyahu and Liberman when it came to Sussiya. It called on the government to take down structures erected after 2014 as it sent out a summary of the state’s position to the media. Regavim believes that all the structures should be razed without exception.
The summary did not quantify how many structures were considered to have been built since then, but the number 30 has been raised in past debates.
Rabbi Arik Ascherman, head of the new human rights group Khakel and former head of Rabbis for Human Rights, said that about 100 people were not at risk of losing their homes at Sussiya. The village is likely to ask the court for an injunction to prevent any demolitions until legal proceedings have been exhausted, and certainly until the state has submitted its position.
Regavim has called on Liberman and Netanyahu to enforce the law in spite of statements by other countries. On Tuesday, it launched a letter-writing campaign designed to pressure them to demolish the village.
“Israel must be steadfast in acting like a sovereign power and upholding the rule of law in her territory,” it said.
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