CMEP Bulletin: Netanyahu Gives In to Settler Pressure; Approves 800 Settlement Housing Units

CMEP Bulletin: Netanyahu Gives In to Settler Pressure; Approves 800 Settlement Housing Units

The Palestinian community of Susiya continues to stand as a result of political pressure from the United States, European Union (EU) and international NGOs. During the past two weeks both the US and EU have made statements discouraging demolition by Israeli forces of Susiya’s buildings. On Tuesday Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) said, “Demolishing Palestinian homes [in Susiya], displacing residents, and seizing additional Palestinian territory in the West Bank is a step away from peace. To preserve land for a future Palestinian state, [the Israeli] government must not destroy Susiya.”

Israeli NGO Responds to International Support for Susyia

Regavim, an Israeli NGO, responded with a July 22nd press statement that said, “The State Department and EU were apparently misinformed about basic facts of the case,” and “This substantial and inappropriate meddling by the US State Department and the EU in undermining the workings of the legal system of Israel is a blatant and misguided attempt to usurp the authority and power of Israel’s courts and internationally recognized legal system.” This is not the first time Regavim has been critical of the EU. In February Regavim accused the EU of building hundreds of “illegal” structures in the West Bank “as part of its strategic plan to create a Palestinian State de facto.”

According to an IDF Civil Administration document obtained by Haaretz this week, the Palestinian village of Susiya sits on privately owned Palestinian land. Under the current Israeli legal structure the villagers would still need permits to build on the land, permits they have applied for and been denied in the past, but should not be legally forced to move.

Settlers Protest Israeli Government Decisions

While Susiya waits under the shadow of demolitions scheduled to take place by August 3rd, over 200 protestors including Israeli settlers, rabbis and public figures converged on the former West Bank settlement of Sa-Nur. Sa-Nur’s settlers were forcibly removed 10 years ago during the 2005 Gaza disengagement and said Tuesday morning “it [is] time to come home.” Israeli security forces cleared out the Israeli protestors by Thursday morning.

Almost simultaneously, Israeli police were confronting Israeli settlers in the West Bank settlement of Beit El who had barricaded themselves inside buildings scheduled for demolition by the Israeli High Court. 50 settlers were arrested and demolitions were completed by Wednesday afternoon. The two buildings were originally built without permits on Palestinian land appropriated by Israel for security purposes. Beginning in 2010 the Palestinian land owners petitioned the High Court to enforce demolition orders on the buildings. Earlier this month the Israeli Civil Administration retroactively issued permits for the buildings leading Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked to say that while the ruling to demolish the buildings must be accepted they will be immediately rebuilt.

Netanyahu Gives in to Pressure from Settlers

Facing increasing criticism from the settler community, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu approved the construction of 800 new settlement housing units, including 300 for Beit El. In response to the approved settlement expansion the Palestinian Presidential spokesman said, “[Israel’s settlement policy is] destructive to all the efforts being put since September by the United States and the European Union to attempt to find an exit to the current crisis.” PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi said, “Israel is deliberately and willfully defying international consensus to create ‘Greater Israel’ on historical Palestine.”

Both the US and EU questioned Israel’s commitment to the peace process. The US State Department said, “Settlement expansion threatens the two-state solution and calls into question Israel’s commitment to a negotiated resolution to the conflict,” and the EU said Netanyahu’s decision “call[s] into question the Israeli government’s stated commitment to a negotiated two-state solution in the Middle East peace process.”

Click here to read the complete Churches for Middle East Peace Bulletin.