The Foreign Ministers of the 28 European Union countries have called on Israel “to halt plans for forced transfer of population and demolition of Palestinian housing and infrastructure” in the village of Susiya in the West Bank. Eleven members of the US Congress have also written to Secretary of State John Kerry about the plight of the village.
The plan for Susiya has been rejected by the planning authority, the Israeli Civil Administration. An appeal to the courts has failed, and there are real fears that demolition of the properties and eviction of the people will soon follow. A final appeal will be heard on 3 August. For more on the history and why planning is so crucial to the fate of the villagers see my blog about it.
Last week the U.S. State Department said “We strongly urge the Israeli authorities to refrain from carrying out any demolitions in the village.” It added “Demolition of this Palestinian village or of parts of it, and evictions of Palestinians from their homes would be harmful and provocative. Such actions have an impact beyond those individuals and families who are evicted.”
Congresswoman Anna Eshoo has sent Secretary of State John Kerry a letter, signed by 10 other members of Congress, urging immediate action to prevent the demolition of Susiya. It also calls on Kerry to act to prevent “the demolition of Palestinian neighbourhoods, farmlands and olive orchards”. The letter says that Palestinian villages in Area C of the West Bank are being denied planning rights. This same criticism of the unfair operation of planning was made in the recent report for UN-Habitat by an international team of planners.
Eighteen past presidents of the Royal Town Planning Institute have expressed their concern at the way planning is being practised in Area C of the West Bank. However, the RTPI itself has decided to make no comment on the issues. Similarly no comment has been made by any of the other major national or international professional planning organisations. In the view of a planner in the UN-Habitat office in Ramallah, “International support is critical for the resilience of Palestinian communities in the occupied West Bank”.
The statement from the European Union calls on Israel “to enable accelerated Palestinian construction, as well as social and economic development in Area C. Such actions will serve to strengthen the prosperity and security of both Israelis and Palestinians.” It is also critical of the continued development of Israeli settlements in Area C, which make a two-state solution harder to achieve.
Since posting this news item, I have been told that the Executive Council of the European Council of Spatial Planners will discuss planning in Area C at their next meeting on 29 August 2015.