About Us

Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine
UK architects, planners and other construction industry professionals campaigning for a just peace in Israel/Palestine.


U.S. Warns It Will Respond Harshly If Israel Demolishes Palestinian Village of Sussia

EU, Britain join diplomatic push to spare Hebron Hills village, though Israel maintains that the fate of Sussia will be decided in court.

by Barak David and Yotam Berger      10 August 2016         Haaretz
A Palestinian man looks out of a tent in Sussia, July 20, 2015.Reuters
The United States has warned it will respond harshly if Israel demolishes the Palestinian village of Sussia in the southern Hebron Hills.
Israeli and American officials, who asked not to be named, said Tuesday that over the past two weeks U.S. administration officials have informed officials in the Prime Minister’s Office and the Defense Ministry that a severe American reaction would result if Israel destroys the houses in the village.
The Israeli officials said similar messages were conveyed over the past two weeks by the European Union, the British government and other international bodies. For example, British diplomats conveyed messages to the PMO and the Foreign Ministry that the British Foreign Office in London would find it difficult to continue assisting Israel in international forums in the event Sussia were demolished.
The Israeli officials said international pressure over the matter came after the Palestinian Authority turned to the United States and a number of other Western countries, claiming that Israel intends to destroy the village in a few weeks.
According to the Israeli officials, the PMO informed the Americans and Europeans that at this stage there is no plan to destroy Sussia, and that the Israeli government would act in accordance with rulings by the High Court of Justice, which is now hearing a petition on the matter.
The petition was submitted by the right-wing movement Regavim, which claims the village was built illegally and thus should be demolished by the Civil Administration.
The villagers of Sussia, which is in Area C, under full Israeli military and civilian control, are among the poorest people in the West Bank. Over the past 30 years they have been moved out of their houses a few times. In 1986 Sussia was declared a national park and its residents removed to their adjacent farmland. In 2001 they were once again removed by the army, and the caves and tin shacks they lived in were demolished.
The High Court at one point ordered the cessation of the demolitions and allowed the residents to remain on the site. However, the court did not instruct the Civil Administration to issue construction permits. As a result, all of the houses in the village have been built without permits. In recent years the Civil Administration has proposed to the residents of Sussia that they move to an area bordering on Area A – formally under full Palestinian control – closer to the village of Yatta. However, they declined.
Meanwhile, the inhabitants of the nearby Jewish settlement of Susya and the Regavim association have been pressuring the Civil Administration to carry out the demolition orders.
Negotiations between the villagers and the Civil Administration began again early this year to try to regulate the village and issue construction permits for the houses. The parties held three rounds of talks and progress was made. However, they suddenly stopped in June without explanation. According to people involved in the negotiations, the round of talks that had been set for last month was canceled. These developments have led the Palestinian residents to fear that Israel has decided to demolish the village.
The High Court held another hearing on August 1 on the petition to implement the demolition order, with court President Miriam Naor leading the bench. At the end of the hearing, the court ordered Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman to submit his position on the evacuation of Sussia by August 15. Naor also ordered that the 30 houses in immediate danger of demolition were not to be destroyed before that time.
The defense minister’s office responded that no directive had been issued by Lieberman regarding Sussia, and that he was still studying the matter.
Barak Ravid
Haaretz Correspondent
Stand up for Sussia and against Israel's demolition of Palestinian villages
On Sunday afternoon, in the middle of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Israel’s Civil Administration demolished structures built without permits in the Palestinian village of Sussia, south of Hebron. This time, it was two structures housing 21 people, 14 of them children. In addition, an outdoor kitchen and animal pen for 80 sheep and goats were destroyed.
The demolition came as a surprise, since during Ramadan and other holidays the Civil Administration generally refrains from implementing demolition orders. A written promise to this effect was even given by the coordinator of government activities in the territories to international organizations, though it had two exceptions: if the structures posed a security hazard; or if they were erected during Ramadan itself. The coordinator’s spokeswoman confirmed that there was such an agreement in principle, but, “Given an examination of all the considerations, including operational ones, it was decided to carry out the enforcement.”
Sussia has long been a symbol of both Palestinian steadfastness and Israeli policies. In 1986, Israel expelled the residents from their original ancient village, whose lands were declared a national park. In 2001, they were thrown off their agricultural lands, where they had settled after the earlier expulsion. The High Court of Justice allowed them to return, but didn’t order the authorities to allow them to rebuild. As a result, all the structures in the village were built without permits and are at risk of demolition.
The Civil Administration never prepared a master plan for Sussia and rejected the plan the residents had submitted, demanding instead that the residents move to an area near the city of Yatta. The residents refused, but agreed to meet with Civil Administration officials to try to come to some understanding. This week, the representatives of both sides were meant to have another meeting. For this reason alone, the demolition was surprising. One might have expected that the Civil Administration would want to appear considerate, rather than brandishing the weapon of demolition that it possesses.
But from every other perspective, there’s no real surprise here. This year, Israel has been expediting the demolition of Palestinian structures that were built without permits in Area C (the part of the West Bank under Israeli control), with 548 buildings demolished as of mid-June – compared to 453 for the whole of 2015.
For years, the Regavim nongovernmental organization, the Knesset subcommittee on Judea and Samaria, and some of the settlements (the Adumim bloc and the Israeli Susya) have been exerting legal and media pressure to get the Civil Administration to implement demolition orders against the Palestinians. The pressure is working, and the objective is clear. It is expressed openly by members of Habayit Hayehudi, who dominate the subcommittee and cofounded Regavim (among them MK Bezalel Smotrich): To remove Palestinians from Area C and annex it to Israel.
The village of Sussia is not the only one at risk of demolition, displacement and loss of its lands. There are dozens of other towns and villages whose lands are in Area C. Without them, there cannot be a Palestinian state established. Standing up for Sussia and against its destruction is, therefore, a call for sanity.
Haaretz Editorial