Israeli defense minister compares illegal Israeli outpost with native Palestinian villages
BETHLEHEM – Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman compared the illegal Israeli Amona outpost to the indigenous Palestinian Bedouin village of Susiya and Palestinian land in Jerusalem on Monday in a speech at Ariel University in the occupied West Bank, according to Israeli media.
The Amona outpost was slated for demolition following a 2008 Israeli Supreme Court decision after eight Palestinians from neighboring villages — with the support of Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din — successfully petitioned the court to remove the outpost on grounds that the construction was carried out on privately-owned Palestinian land.
“There is no way that Amona can be left as it is built today, because most of the houses are built on private Palestinian land,” Lieberman reportedly said on Monday, referring to Amona, which was built in 1996.
After years of appeals from right-wing Israeli government officials, and attempts by Amona settlers to prove they had legally purchased the land, an Israeli police investigation in May 2014 found the entirety of the outpost to have been built on Private Palestinian lands, and that the documents used by Amona residents to try claim their “purchases” were in fact forged.
In December 2014, the Israeli Supreme Court ordered again that the outpost be demolished by December 2016.
According to Haaretz, Lieberman followed up on his comments about Amona on Monday with the stipulation that “all the rules that apply to Amona apply to every other place as well.”
Claiming that “there is only one law for both Israelis and Palestinians,” Lieberman reportedly told the audience that it was unacceptable that such rulings — as in the case of Amona, which along with every other settlement and outpost in the occupied West Bank is internationally recognized as being illegal — are unfairly enforced against Israelis but not against “other trespassers.”
The “trespassers” Lieberman was referring to were the Palestinian residents of Susiya in the southern West Bank, and the Palestinians of the area known as the “E1 corridor,” a contentious zone that the Israeli government has set up to link annexed East Jerusalem with the mega settlement of Maale Adumim, which would virtually cut the occupied West Bank in half, making the creation of a contiguous Palestinian State impossible.
“We are a nation based on law and we will honor court decisions in all circumstances,” Lieberman said, saying that “when it comes to enforcing rulings against other trespassers everyone stands up on their hind legs,” seemingly complaining about the international community’s harsh reactions to Israeli government attempts to demolish Susiya and replace it with an illegal Jewish settlement of the exact same name.
Susiya’s residents have been embroiled in a decades-long legal battle to legalize the village and have endured multiple demolitions enforced by Israeli authorities over the years, who say Palestinians lack the proper building permits to live on the land that lies between an Israeli settlement and Israel-controlled archaeological site.
The privately owned Palestinian land is located in Area C — the more than 60 percent of the occupied West Bank under full Israeli control — where building permits for Palestinians are nearly impossible to obtain.
Many of the villagers have ties to the land that predate the creation of the state of Israel, and Ottoman-era land documents to prove it.
Most recently, in mid-July, authorities from Israel’s Civil Administration abruptly halted months of dialog with Susiya’s residents over the possibility of legalizing the village, telling them that a future agreement on the village would now be the responsibility of Lieberman.
Lieberman postponed the announcement of his decision twice, first until November 2016, and then until December.
According to spokesperson for Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR) Yariv Mohar, who is assisting in Susiya’s legal battle, Lieberman’s decision on whether or not to continue the dialogue between the residents of Susiya and the Civil Administration is set to be announced on December 15, 2016.
Lieberman will be responsible for deciding whether to accept the state of Israel’s request to immediately and without prior notice demolish some 40 percent of the southern occupied West Bank village, where half of the some 200 village residents live according to RHR.
The lawyers of RHR have affirmed that there is no question as to whether the residents own the land they are on, also noting that “basic (Jewish) morality dictates it is wrong to demolish part of a village which has previously demolished without any plan or solution for the residents, while international law prohibits the forcible transfer of populations,” Mohar told Ma’an in August.
Though Lieberman has yet to formally announce a decision, his comments on Monday indicate that in his opinion, the residents of Susiya should be subject to the same treatment as the illegal settlers occupying privately owned Palestinian land in Amona.
Lieberman has previously advocated policies ranging from the overthrow of the Palestinian Authority to the deportation of Palestinian citizens of Israel into the occupied Palestinian territory, while promoting the transfer of towns in Israel that are heavily populated by Palestinians to a future Palestinian state in exchange for illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Lieberman himself lives in the southern occupied West Bank Israeli settlement of Nokdim, in contravention of international law.
Since appointed as defense minister by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in May, the two have teamed up to approve hundreds of new housing units in illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
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