U.S. pressured PM to halt demolition of Palestinian homes, settlers charge

The settlers claimed that since U.S. officials are scheduled to visit the region, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delayed the order to demolish seven homes in the West Bank village of Sussiya.

A Palestinian man looks out of a tent in Sussiya village, south of the West Bank city of Hebron July 20, 2015 (photo credit: MUSSA QAWASMA / REUTERS)
A Palestinian man looks out of a tent in Sussiya village, south of the West Bank city of Hebron July 20, 2015
(photo credit: MUSSA QAWASMA / REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu caved in to US pressure and halted the demolition of up to seven structures in the illegal West Bank Palestinian herding village of Sussiya, settlers charged on Tuesday morning.
“The Israeli government’s folly is indescribable,” said South Hebron Hills Regional Council head Yochai Damri.
He spoke after the Hebrew language website Ynet published a story claiming that the IDF and police had been prepared to enter the village on Tuesday morning, but that Netanyahu called off the operation late that night.
Ynet said Netanyahu acted under pressure from the international community and the Trump Administration, whose envoys Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt are visiting the region this week, including Israel.
“Due to the pending visit by two American envoys, the government has delayed, until an unknown date, the demolition of illegal houses built in defiance of a High Court of Justice injunction – which have been sitting on state land for years,” Damri said.
On Monday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman also charged that he had been pressured to delay the demolitions against illegal Palestinian structures in Sussiya in the South Hebron Hills and the Khan Al-Ahmar Beduin herding village, which is located just outside of the Kfar Adumim settlement.
Last month, the High Court of Justice ruled that the village and its adjacent school can be razed. In February the court ruled that seven structures in Sussiya can also be razed.
Liberman told reporters in the Knesset: “I have tried to carry out these orders four times. Each time, at the last moment – including in the last days – I have received all kinds of objections from the National Security Adviser.
“There are court rulings with regard to Sussiya and Khan Al-Ahmar and I intend to carry them out,” Liberman said.
He qualified that, however, saying “if there are direct orders from the prime minister (to halt the demolitions) then I will obey. But at this moment we are preparing for demolition in Khan Al-Ahmar and Sussiya.”
At the UN Security Council in New York, UN Special Coordinator to the Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov called on Israel not to demolish the Palestinian structures.
The United Nations has argued that the Palestinians have no choice but to build illegally because Israeli permits are rarely given.
“I also reiterate the call of the UN humanitarian coordinator for the plans to demolish Khan al-Ahmar – Abu al-Helu to be canceled. Not only is the community at imminent risk of demolition and displacement, but it also sets a significant precedent that many other Bedouin and herder communities in Area C can be affected [by],” Mladenov said.
In the last three months, Mladenov said, Israel “demolished or seized 84 Palestinian- owned structures, resulting in the displacement of some 67 people and potentially affected the livelihoods of 4,500 others.”
The delay in the Sussiya demolitions comes as security forces carried out two High Court of Justice rulings last week against illegal settler homes.
Security forces demolished 15 permanent homes in the Netiv Ha’avot outpost on June 12 and took down 10 modular structures in the Tapuah West outpost on Sunday.
The Yesha Council said that the government’s failure to demolish Palestinian structures while at the same time taking down Jewish ones in Area C was discriminatory.
The delay “is a gift to the Palestinian Authority and the European Union, which are trying to seize control of Area C in contradiction of existing agreements,” the council said.