Haaretz is reporting demolition plans for the Palestinian village of Susiya may be halted based on an internal Israeli Civil Administration (ICA) report the paper has obtained confirming the village of Susiya is sitting on Palestinian land privately owned by Susiya’s Jabor and Nawaja families.
The article,”Defense Ministry internal report: Land at village slated for demolition privately owned by Palestinians” states ICA officer Moshe Meiri found the ownership deeds, based on 1881 Ottoman documents submitted by Susiya’s Jabor family were “indeed valid”. The upshot, according to Haaretz, is “Sussia residents cannot be forced to leave Sussia”.
However, while they might not be forced to leave, Meiri says Susiya residents “still need building permits in order to prevent the planned demolition.” But when Susiya residents submitted a professionally developed master plan for the village of Susiya to the ICA 2 years ago and filed a request for building permits, rejected by the ICA, the reasoning given for denying the permits was because they claimed the residents lacked ownership papers . Haaretz notes “Meiri’s report, however, appears to counter the reasoning that building permits cannot be issued to the local people because of a lack of ownership papers.”
Indeed it does.
It is unclear from the article when the internal report was written and how long the Defense Ministry’s Civil Administration has been sitting on this document, Haaretz just states the document was drawn up “following an inquiry by the Jabor family”.
One wonders how much warnings and pressure from the U.S. government and the European Union had to do with this decision. No mention of the huge demonstration in the village over the weekend, hundreds of Israelis join in. Nonetheless, it’s fortunate Meiri managed to eventually locate the geographical boundaries on the Ottoman documents:
According to Meiri, a Civil Administration officer responsible for land administration in the West Bank, the Ottoman deed is indeed valid. The same type of deed has also been mentioned by the State Prosecutor’s Office, which has ruled on the borders of various settlements.
The deed was problematic because the boundaries mentioned were unclear, described in terms of geographic features that turned out hard to identify on the ground. But Meiri managed to locate them and found that they indeed included land belonging to the Jabor family, as well as to the Nawaja family.
At the end of ruling, Meiri wrote that the orders issued to the Jabor family should be canceled and that previous court rulings on Sussia should be discussed. Meiri’s ruling came as a surprise to the Civil Administration, especially the head of the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories, who had personally intervened in the Sussia matter. The wider ramifications of Meiri’s findings are still being considered.
The news comes just 8 days before Israel’s high court hearing is set to hear the villager’s petition on August 3rd. According to B’Tselem, intense pressure by Regavim, a settler organization whose focus is the expulsion of the Palestinian population on both sides of the Green Line, seeking to thwart all avenues for Susiya residents to remain on their land, led to a decision by COGAT, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories to carry out demolitions in Susiya before the high court hearing.