CMEP Bulletin: Susiya is Safe, For Now
With bulldozers poised to carry out demolition orders (see last week’s CMEP Bulletin) on the village of Susiya, American and European diplomats visited the village last week. The European Union (EU) has been particularly concerned about Susiya. Of the 37 building scheduled for demolition 22 are EU funded. In addition EU countries have funded a clinic, solar panels, water purifying systems and the development of a Master Plan for Susiya.
The United States has also expressed public concern over the recent demolition orders for Susiya. During a press briefing US State Department spokesman John Kirby said,” We’re closely following developments in the village of Susiya in the West Bank, and we strongly urge the Israeli authorities to refrain from carrying out any demolitions in the village. Demolition of this Palestinian village or of parts of it, and evictions of Palestinians from their homes would be harmful and provocative. Such actions have an impact beyond those individuals and families who are evicted. We are concerned that the demolition of this village may worsen the atmosphere for a peaceful resolution and would set a damaging standard for displacement and land confiscation, particularly given settlement-related activity in the area. We urge Israeli authorities to work with the residents of the village to finalize a plan for the village that addresses the residents’ humanitarian needs.” It appears that Susiya is safe for now but Israeli soldiers told the villagers demolitions would happen between Eid (last weekend) and August 3rd.
Israel Takes Actions to Protect Settlements
While the international community has been focused on protecting Susiya, Israel has been taking steps to protect, fund and build more settlements. On Tuesday Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked put together a committee that among other tasks will “classify which land is considered privately owned [Palestinian land] and what evidence of ownership is required to determine that an area is privately owned [Palestinian land].” Depending on the conclusions of the committee, the government may take steps to legalize Israeli settler land ownership in West Bank settlements set up with the governments help. Later in the week the Civil Administration in the West Bank granted construction permits for 906 new settlement housing units and the Knesset gave preliminary approval for a bill allowing the Israeli government to resume giving funds to the World Zionist Organization’s Settlement Division. The World Zionist Organization’s Settlement Division operates without oversight or public transparency.
EU Takes Action and Seeks to Revive the Peace Process
In a list of decisions made during a Monday meeting EU foreign ministers stated, “[The EU] calls on Israeli authorities to halt plans for forced transfer of population and demolition of Palestinian housing and infrastructure in the Susya and Abu Nwar communities.” It went onto say the EU “reiterates its strong opposition to Israel’s settlement policy and actions taken in this context, such as building the separation barrier beyond the 1967 line, demolitions and confiscation – including of EU funded projects – evictions, forced transfers including of Bedouins, illegal outposts, settler violence and restrictions of movement and access.”
The next day Israel asked EU member states to cease funding non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working to “delegitimize the Jewish state.” Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely has provided European foreign ministers with documents collected by the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the NGO Monitor organization that she says prove the “problematic” funding.
In addition to a statement on Israel’s settlement policy and actions, EU foreign ministers agreed that they would seek to form a broader International UN-backed coalition to revive peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. These decisions happened alongside an EU decision to move forward with the introduction of labels that would identify good produced in Israeli West Bank settlements. Following this decision, an EU think tank proposed that the EU needs to go further in order differentiate dealings with Israel from Israel’s activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem by targeting Israeli banks.
Take Action and Protect Susiya!
Susiya may be safe today but the danger of demolition has not passed! Ask your member of Congress to request the US State Department and Israeli embassy protect Susiya.
Click here to read the full Churches for Middle East Peace Bulletin, including links to further reading, and to an action alert on Susiya.