Ten U.S. Democratic Senators Urge Netanyahu: Do Not Demolish Palestinian Village of Sussia

Senators, including Bernie Sanders and Dianne Feinstein, relay distress over Israeli threats to demolish Palestinian villages and settlement extension plans in the West Bank

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) attends the full committee markup of the tax reform legislation on Capital Hill November 28, 2017 in Washington, D.C.
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) attends the full committee markup of the tax reform legislation on Capital Hill November 28, 2017 in Washington, D.C. TASOS KATOPODIS/AFP

WASHINGTON - Ten U.S. senators sent a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu on Wednesday urging him to stop the demolition of Sussia and Khan al-Ahmar, two Palestinian villages in the West Bank that Israeli authorities say were built illegally. Among those who signed the letter are two prominent Jewish members of the Senate, Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). All members who signed the letter are affiliated with the Democratic Party. 

"We write today to urge your government not to demolish the Palestinian village of Susiya and the Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar," the senators wrote to Netanyahu. "Instead of forcibly evicting these communities, we encourage your government to fairly re-evaluate Susya's professionally developed master plan and provide the residents of Khan al-Ahmar equal building rights."  

Sussia is located near the Jewish settlement of the same name in Area C, the region under full Israeli civil and security authority. It was established without building permits and demolition orders have been issued for its structures.

The Israeli High Court ordered to halt its demolition and allow residents, among the poorest in the West Bank, to remain in the village. However, Israel rejected a master plan presented in the name of Sussia residents and has not prepared one of its own. 

The senators added that "your government's threats to demolish these communities are particularly distressing in light of the Israeli Civil Administration's efforts to dramatically expand settlements throughout the West Bank." They quote the Israeli organization Peace Now and state that "in 2017, Israel advanced 88 plans that include 6,742 housing units in 59 separate settlements, a 258 percent increase in the number of housing units proposed in 2016. Further, your government officially approved the construction of the new settlement of Amihai, which is in addition to the 19 settler outposts that have been retroactively legalized since 2011." 

In their letter, the ten senators also state that "your government's efforts to forcibly evict entire Palestinian communities and expand settlements not only directly imperil a two-state solution, but we believe also endanger Israel's future as a Jewish democracy." 

American and European diplomats have been very involved in the Sussia issue for the past few years, and have demanded Israel not demolish the village. Since the change of administration in Washington earlier this year, the U.S. has withdrawn significantly.