Israel might ‘cross a red line’ with looming village demolition, US diplomats say

© Times of Israel
Washington has strongly warned Israel against tearing down Palestinian village of Sussia in the West Bank, calling such a prospect “very troubling” following a US delegation visit. Earlier, the US dubbed Israel’s actions in the area “provocative and counterproductive.”

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“If the Israeli government proceeds with demolitions in Sussia, it would be very troubling and would have a very damaging impact on the lives of the Palestinians living there who have already been displaced on other occasions,”said US State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau in a briefing on Wednesday. 

Speaking to the Jerusalem Post, an unnamed US diplomatic official said that for Israel going ahead with the decision would amount to “crossing of a red line” as it “would be to go against the whole international community.”

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On Tuesday, Israel had already brought the ire of the European and US officials upon itself after its forces demolished three EU-sponsored shelters and two other structures in the West Bank.

Israeli human rights group B’tselem estimated that out of 27 people forced out of their homes in the village of Umm el-Kheir as result of the operation, 16 were children.

“We remain concerned about the increased demolition of Palestinian structures in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which reportedly have left dozens of Palestinians homeless, including children,” said Trudeau, commenting on the incident. She noted that by carrying on demolitions Israel “continues this pattern of provocative and counterproductive action”. 

The raid fell in line with “an ongoing process of land seizures, settlement expansions, legalization of outpost, denial of Palestinian development,” she added, before casting doubt on the Jewish government’s genuine commitment to the peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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EU, British and US officials have reportedly been persuading their Israeli allies to halt the demolition activity in the West Bank in regard to the Sussia village, a home of some 300 people, mostly impoverished, for the past two weeks, Haaretz reported.  

In their turn, Israeli officials deny that they have imminent plans to destroy the village, at least until the judgment on the petition submitted by a right-wing Regavim movement, that called for its demolition, is pronounced. Regavim’s plea is grounded upon the fact that the construction of the village was unlawful in the first place and therefore it must be torn down, it argues.

The dwellers have repeatedly fallen victims to displacement over the last 30 years. In 1986 the villagers were evicted from their homes and resettled to the nearby farm area after Sussia was designated a national park by the Israeli authorities, that retain full military control over the settlement. In 2001, the residents suffered another removal with the shelters they live in completely razed.

Even after the High Court permitted the villagers to stay, they could not feel secure as the Civil Administration, Israel’s governing body in the West Bank, failed to provide the residents with the construction permits thus rendering their housings unlawful by default. The hope for the dead end situation to be resolved came early this year, as authorities were negotiating the terms on which the permits could be issued with villagers. However, the consultations were abruptly ended in June in the wake of Avigdor Lieberman’s appointment to the office of the defense minister on May 30. 

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Liebermann, a chair of the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party, is known for his controversial proposal, such as “cutting off heads” of Arab-Israelis disloyal to Israel, and had supported the demolition of the village before taking up the office. 

Lieberman, who was labelled “minister of war” by his critics, is now to submit his opinion on the case by August 15 as requested by the High Court.