Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman linked the fate of the West Bank illegal Palestinian herding village of Sussiya with that of the settler outpost of Amona, when he visited the South Hebron Hills on the first day of school on Thursday.
“Those who care about the rule of law have to respect our legal system,” he told middle school pupils in the Sussiya settlement.
“It can’t be that all the world will come with one request for settlers in Amona and with a totally different request for those living in [Palestinian] Sussiya,” Liberman said.
He discussed with the pupils the challenges that he will face in the next half year, with regard to two communities in the West Bank, both of which were built without authorization.
Liberman has been ordered by the High Court of Justice to evacuate by December 25 some 40 families who live in the small hilltop community. It was built on private Palestinian property on the outskirts of the Ofra settlement in the Binyamin region of the West Bank.
Separately, Liberman must deliver his opinion to the High Court with regard to the Palestinian herding village of Sussiya. Its tents and temporary shacks were built illegally on land that is located between the Jewish settlement and an archeological park that houses the remains of a 5th-century synagogue.
The international community, including the United Nations, the European Union and the United States, has persistently called on Israel in the last few months not to retroactively legalize settler construction, particularly in outposts such as Amona.
But they have similarly asked Israel to authorize illegal Palestinian construction, particularly in herding villages for Palestinians and Beduin.
In the past, Liberman has called for the demolition of Palestinian Sussiya. But on Thursday, he struck a more moderate tone as he explained that he has asked the High Court for a three-month continuance to study the matter.
Should the High Court agree to the delay, he would deliver his opinion on November 15, one week after the US election.
He told the pupils he believes the Palestinians build with “the deliberate intention to divide between [Jewish] Sussiya and the ancient [archeological] site.”
This was done, he charged, “with the support of other nations. Suddenly, it has become a point of controversy with the EU and the US. I receive messages about it from all over the world. Everyone has discovered Sussiya, even the UNSC is interested.”
One of the pupils asked him why he hadn’t already demolished Palestinian Sussiya.
Liberman said that ultimately the village’s fate rested with the High Court; but that a solution had to be found. The two groups of people, Palestinians and Israelis, have to live together in this region, he said.
He noted that those in the international community who railed against Israeli actions in Judea and Samaria never seemed concerned that the PA considers the sale of land to Jews a crime punishable by death.
“I don’t see any protests about this,” he said.
He advised that those “in the free world who preach about the rule of law” would do well “to respect our legal system. The law is the same for everyone.”
The legal challenge in both Amona and Sussiya are not simple, he said. Liberman warned the residents of the Amona outpost that he planned to respect the court’s ruling.
On Thursday morning, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi) called for lawmakers to enact such a law, when he visited a small first grade classroom at the Amona outpost.
“Just seeing you strengthens my belief that we can’t uproot Jews from their land. In a few years I hope to see a large settlement here and I will do my best to ensure that no Jews is uprooted,” he declared.
He promised that the Ministerial Legislative Committee would soon deal with a law to ensure that they could remain in their homes.
“I believe and hope that we will soon be able to resolve this,” he said.