The State of Israel has the right to demolish 30 illegal structures built in the new and illegal Arab “village” of Susiya, according to a draft document to be submitted Wednesday to the High Court of Justice.
Although usually the Defense Ministry Civil Administration decides these issues, this time Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would make the call on whether or not to demolish the structures, rather than Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, the document stated.
The prime minister’s review would take until the end of October, after the completion of the Jewish high holy days, after which time the state would inform the Court whether the shacks would be legalized, or demolished.
The state warned the Court, however, that legal remedies would remain in place against any new construction that appears in the area after 2014, and that laws against illegal construction would be enforced.
The Regavim nongovernmental organization (NGO) has consistently researched and litigated the case against any new building by Arabs from the Palestinian Authority in the area, which is completely under the control of Israel.
Regavim is calling on Israel to demolish all illegal structures post-2014, regardless of international pressure.
The United States and the European Union have for months been pressuring Israel to legalize the village. The European Union has in addition been encouraging the Palestinian Authority to continue illegal construction in Area C. In some cases, this activity has actually forced Israel to demolish structures built with funding, or directly, illegally built by the European Union itself.
Due to the sensitive diplomatic nature of the issue, the matter was sent directly to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) for attention.
The modern Jewish community, established in 1983 under the Mount Hebron Regional Council, is located next to the ancient city of Susiya, now an archaeological site featuring a 5th-8th CE synagogue with a magnificent mosaic floor, and the mosque that replaced it.
The site was formally declared an archaeological site in 1986 by the Israel Defense Ministry’s Civil Administration; the Arab population chose to locate its “village” precisely on the same spot.
The IDF expelled the squatters, who began with 25 families in 1986, despite opposition from the United Nations which claimed they were living in “houses” at the time. The Arab villagers were moved instead to a site few hundred meters southeast of the original ancient city.
Just 13 families comprised Arab Susiya in 2008. But as it became more fashionable in the international community to target Israel’s right to govern Area C of the Oslo Accords, Mount Hebron and the area around it rose to prominence as a key battleground. Arab Susiya did too, and by 2015 the “village” rose to its current population of 50 families, comprising several hundred people.Hana Levi Julian