Senator Feinstein Urges Netanyahu Not to Demolish Palestinian Village

Uprooting Sussia's residents would further isolate Israel, increase tensions with Palestinians and provoke unnecessary violence, Democrat writes in letter to the prime minister.

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Protesters take part in a rally against the planned Israeli demolition of Susya village near the West Bank city of Hebron July 24, 2015.
Protesters take part in a rally against the planned Israeli demolition of Susya village near the West Bank city of Hebron July 24, 2015. Credit: Reuters

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday to stop Israel's efforts to raze the Palestinian village of Sussia in the West Bank, saying that uprooting the village's residents would further isolate Israel, increase tensions with the Palestinians and provoke unnecessary violence.

"Demolishing Palestinian homes, 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, your government must not destroy Susiya [sic]," the senator wrote in a letter.

Feinstein gave a detailed account of Sussia's history and legal battle facing the Civil Administration, noting that the village has existed at least since the 1830s. The Civil Administration should reconsider the village's petition for a master plan "so that the area's Palestinian villagers can live in peace and with legal certainty," Feinstein wrote.

"I fear that uprooting Susiya's residents before the world's attention would only further isolate Israel, increase tension with the Palestinians and provoke unnecessary violence," she wrote.

Feinstein concluded by affirming her commitment to Israel, and by urging Netanyahu to refrain from "inflammatory or provocative action."

Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat from California and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, talks with the media.Credit: Bloomberg

Sussia is located in the South Hebron Hills near the town of Yatta, which is near Hebron. The village, home to 40 families, does not have a valid master expansion plan, and no building permits have been issued in the area. Following a petition filed by an organization funded by the right-wing group Amana, the High Court of Justice ruled that the government must demolish the village.

However, a Civil Administration document obtained by Haaretz shows that the village sits on private Palestinian land owned by local people.

Despite the findings, Sussia residents still need building permits in order to prevent the planned demolition. The Civil Adminstration report, however, appears to counter the reasoning that building permits cannot be issued to the local people because of a lack of ownership papers. It also appears that the Sussia residents cannot be forced to leave because the village is built on private land. Even if structures there are demolished, village residents could use the land for agricultural purposes.

Sussia residents filed a request with the Civil Administration two years ago, asking for building permits, but their request was rejected. Afterwards, they petitioned the High Court to legitimize construction that had already taken place. The hearing on their petition was postponed.

In July, the Civil Administration has said it intends to demolish the illegal structures after the Id al-Fitr holiday that ends Ramadan. It backed down following pressure from both the U.S. government and the European Union in Brussels.

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