Many people have been in touch with me recently with concerns over the planned demolition of Bedouin villages in the West Bank. I believe that the expansion of Israeli settlements on occupied land, including the proposed demolition of the village of Susiya, is both illegal and immoral, and represents a real threat to the creation of two states as a way of ending the conflict.
The UN has stated that demolitions of Palestinian-owned structures in Area C of the West Bank average 11 every two weeks. The UK Government has said that it is gravely concerned at the humanitarian impact of the planned demolition in Susiya, and has repeatedly raised concerns with the Israeli Government urging it to stop this counter-productive policy. I welcome its interventions on this issue.
Reports also suggest that British representations prior to the Israeli Prime Minister's visit in early November helped to postpone the demolition – showing that when we speak out, we can have a positive effect. I am concerned, however, that the US President's lack of interest in this issue has been taken as a green light by some in the Israeli Government to proceed with demolitions as they please.
Therefore, it is vital that the UK Government continues to exert pressure on the Israeli Government, and I hope it will encourage the Israeli authorities to engage in dialogue with Bedouin communities to agree a satisfactory resolution to this matter.
Unfortunately I was unable to attend the recent debate on this issue, but I have asked this question to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and this is the response I received:
“What recent assessment he has made of the humanitarian effects of the proposed demolition of the village of Susiya in the South Hebron hills?”
We are gravely concerned by the humanitarian impact of proposals to demolish the village of Susiya in the South Hebron Hills. The demolition could leave up to 100 people, half of them children, without shelter. Demolitions and evictions of Palestinians from their homes cause unnecessary suffering to ordinary Palestinians; call into question Israel’s commitment to a viable two-state solution; and, in all but the most exceptional of cases, are contrary to International Humanitarian Law. Officials from our Embassy in Tel Aviv have repeatedly raised our concerns with Israeli Ministers and senior officials, and urged them to cease this counter-productive policy, and provide a clear, transparent route to construction for Palestinians in Area C.
I share the frustration and disappointment of many at the lack of progress on the peace process and I can assure that I will continue to follow any developments closely.