A protester holds a Palestinian flag in front of an IDF bulldozer in the West Bank [File].
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Ten leading US Democratic senators have urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to demolish the illegal Palestinian and Beduin villages of Sussiya and Khan al-Ahmar.
“The displacement of entire communities would be an irreversible step away from a two-state solution and we urge your government to abandon its efforts to destroy these villages,” the senators said in letter sent on Thursday.
Senators Dianne Feinstein and Bernie Sanders were the top signatories.
The High Court of Justice is adjudicating the fate of both villages, a step that will likely remove the threat of imminent demolition from many of the structures during the legal proceedings.
Right-wing activists and Palestinians clash at Sussiya.
The state last week told the HCJ that as a result of internal Civil Administration discussions, separate from the HCJ proceedings, there is no immediate threat to Sussiya.
It added, however, that these talks would not protect 20 of the 100 tents and shacks that make up the village of 350 people.
The state said those structures were built in contravention of a court order and that it plans to remove them by December 6.
Sussiya’s attorney, Quamar Mishirqi-Assad, has appealed that demolition order.
“There is an active threat against 20% of the village’s buildings that the state plans to raze,” Mishirqi-Assad said. “Some 100 residents, half of whom are children,” would then be evicted, she added.
Non-governmental groups have also launched a campaign in the United States and Great Britain to urge politicians to pressure Israel not to allow the December 6 demolitions or any subsequent ones.
Shabbat in Sussiya
The US senators said they have been following the fate of these two villages.
“Earlier this year, we were alarmed by the public comments of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who said that work was being done to implement plans to evacuate the Palestinian villages of Sussiya in the South Hebron Hills and Khan al-Ahmar near Ma’aleh Adumin within a few months,” the senators wrote.
“Instead of forcibly evicting these communities, we encourage your government to fairly reevaluate Sussiya’s professionally- developed master plan and provide the residents of Khan al-Ahmar equal building rights.
“Your government’s threats to demolish these communities are particularly distressing in light of the Israeli Civil Administration decision to dramatically expand settlements throughout [Area C of] the West Bank,” they wrote.
“We have long championed a two-state solution as a just resolution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. Yet, your government’s efforts to forcibly evict entire Palestinian communities and expand settlements throughout the West Bank not only directly imperil a two-state solution, but we believe also endanger Israel’s future as a Jewish democracy,” they said.
“We urge you to change course so that you do not foreclose the possibility of establishing two states for two peoples,” they wrote.
Other signatories to the letter included Senators Patrick Leahy, Richard J. Durbin, Tom Carper, Al Franken, Elizabeth Warren, Martin Heinrich, Jeffrey A. Merkley and Brian Schatz.
The left-wing US-based group J Street said it was proud to have supported and advocated for the letter.
J Street and its on-campus arm J Street U this month “launched a new student-led campaign, “Stop Demolitions, Build Peace,” to raise awareness about the threat that these demolitions pose to the two-state solution and to Palestinian communities,” it said.
“In the absence of serious leadership by the Trump administration to condemn these Israeli policies, it is vital that elected officials and Jewish communal leaders take action to defend Israel’s future,” it said.
Last week, the European Union called on Israel not to raze illegal Palestinian structures in Area C of the West Bank.
Mishirqi-Assad called on the international community to also pressure Israel to allow new construction in Sussiya while the legal proceedings are underway.
This freeze stops natural life in the village, she said. It’s an absurd demand that goes against international law and forces them to live in “inhuman conditions,” she said.
Right-wing politicians are pressuring Netanyahu to push forward with such demolitions, arguing that the presence of the villages is part of an overall Palestinian Authority plan to increase its foothold in Area C.
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