Lieberman Requests Delay in Presenting His Position on Palestinian Village Set for Demolition

Defense minister tells court negotiations with residents of Sussia only ran their course this week. Now he wants to wait until November, after the U.S. elections.

Reuters

Israel asked on Thursday to postpone submitting the position of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, regarding the fate of a Palestinian village in the south Hebron Hills until November 15.

The state prosecutor remarked in its request that the defense minister and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are seeking a formal postponement.

Two weeks ago, the High Court of Justice, which is hearing a petition by Rabbis for Human Rights to formalize its status, asked for the defense minister's position by the beginning of this week. The state asked for a two-day postponement on Monday, without being forbidden officially from evacuating some of the homes in the village before submitting its position. Now, the state wants to postpone submitting the position until mid-November, after the U.S. elections.

Avigdor Lieberman, head of far-right Yisrael Beitenu party, (L) sits next to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as they sign a coalition deal to broaden the government's parliamentary majority, at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem May 25, 2016.
Emil Salman

Lieberman told reporters on Tuesday that he thought the negotiations with Sussia residents had run their course, about which he intended to inform the court. Still, individuals who were involved in the negotiations to formalize Sussia's status, both from among the residents and from the state, reported that the atmosphere during the talks was positive and that attested that the negotiations had never blown up. Some of the residents even expected additional meetings with the state negotiation team, saying that the negotiations were in a very advanced stage, and that they were close to a solution.

Sources close to the previous defense minister, Moshe Ya'alon, said that both sides were satisfied with the atmosphere within the negotiations between the state and Sussia residents during his tenure.

The U.S. administration last week warned Israel not to demolish the village. According to senior Israeli and American officials, senior Obama administration officials stressed that if Israel would demolish the village homes, the United States would react in the harshest manner. Similar messages on the matter over the past month also came from the European Union, the United Kingdom and international bodies, according to the officials.

Sussia is located in the south Hebron Hills and is considered part of Area C, under full Israeli administrative and military control. Village residents are among the weakest socioeconomically in the West Bank. They have been forcefully resettled numerous times over the past 30 years. Sussia was declared a national park in 1986, and its residents were moved to adjacent agricultural plots. They were resettled again in 2001 by the army, and the caves and tin shacks they were living in were demolished.

Moti Milrod