Lieberman Expresses Desire to Find Agreed Solution for Palestinian Village of Sussia

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Palestinian children play in the West Bank village of Sussia, located in Area C, May 25, 2015. Credit: Reuters

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Thursday that he was interested in finding an agreed upon solution concerning the impending demolition of the Palestinian village of Sussia in the West Bank's South Hebron Hills.

"At the end of the day, we are destined to live here with our neighbors, and therefore we seek a solution," Lieberman said on the first day of the school year on a visit to a junior high school in the Israeli settlement of Susya, located next to the Palestinian community Sussia.

"We really want to be good people and to respect the surroundings. We are therefore waiting for the decision [of the High Court of Justice]. I assume that sometime at the end of the year, there will be a court decision and we will act accordingly."

Demolition orders have been issued against the residential structures in Palestinian Sussia, but the High Court is currently considering a petition by the Israeli organization Rabbis for Human Rights seeking to have the order rescinded.

During the tenure of Moshe Ya'alon, Lieberman's predecessor as defense minister, the Israeli army entered into negotiations with the residents of the Palestinian community in an effort to find a solution to the status of their village, either legalizing it or relocating it. The villagers are currently living in makeshift structures without legal authorization, having relocated twice after their original village was declared an archaeological site.

Since Lieberman took office in June, the negotiations with the villagers have been halted. The state had been due to respond to the Rabbis for Human Rights petition last month, but requested an extension until mid-November, until after the elections in the United States.

Last month, the U.S. administration warned Israel not to demolish the village. According to senior Israeli and American officials, senior Obama administration officials stressed that if Israel demolished the village homes, the United States would react harshly. Similar messages have been conveyed by the European Union, the United Kingdom and from elsewhere abroad.

Lieberman also commented on construction approvals granted on Wednesday by the top planning council of the Civil Administration in the West Bank, which, as reported by Haaretz, included retroactive legal authorization of hundreds of housing units in one of settlements. A request for approval of construction permits for about 30 units in the settlement of Efrat was taken off the agenda at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's request due to concern over the reaction of the United States. A source who spoke with the prime minister, said it is off the agenda until after the American elections.

In his comments at the junior high, Lieberman said: "You see, we are building. Just yesterday we approved significant construction in a lot of communities, a lot of residential units, in accordance with the law, and we will therefore firmly continue to do so."

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