Eight European countries at the United Nations, including five Security Council members, on Thursday called on Israel to reverse its decision to demolish a Palestinian village in the West Bank, saying it would torpedo chances for peace.
Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Belgium, Poland, and the Netherlands warned that the demolition of the village of Khan al-Ahmar “would be very serious and would severely threaten the viability of the two-state solution and undermine prospects for peace.”
“We therefore call upon the Israeli authorities to reconsider their decision to demolish Khan al-Ahmar,” the countries said in a joint statement released ahead of a council meeting on the Middle East.
Israel says Khan al-Ahmar, a hamlet of corrugated shacks east of Jerusalem, was illegally built and has offered to resettle residents 12 kilometers (7 miles) away.
On September 5, Israel’s Supreme Court upheld an order to raze the village on grounds that it was built without the proper permits.
#EU members on #UNSC call upon the Israeli authorities to reconsider decision to demolish #KhanalAhmar
& underline long-standing position on #Israel’s settlement policy, illegal under international law, as reconfirmed by resolution 2334. pic.twitter.com/knczQ4acAs
— SwedenUN ???????? (@SwedenUN) September 20, 2018
Israel has not announced a date for the demolition, but last week dismantled five corrugated metal shacks near Khan al-Ahmar that had been set up by villagers a few days earlier in a show of defiance. On Friday, troops returned with heavy equipment, removing earthen mounds set up to slow demolition. Two Palestinians and an American-French law professor were detained.
The seemingly outsize international attention being paid to the tiny community is linked to its strategic location in the center of the West Bank. It’s an area deemed essential for setting up a contiguous Palestinian state in the West Bank.
Shani Sasson, a spokeswoman for COGAT, the Defense Ministry body responsible for Palestinian civilian affairs, said Israel has offered to relocate the villagers.
She said the tribe squats on land that is not safe for living, and that the Israeli government has prepared an alternative site just a few kilometers (miles) away with sewage treatment and access to water and electricity. She said Israel has invested over $2 million in the relocation project.
“We are doing them a service,” she said. “This is not against them, this is for them.”
The EU has also called on Israel to compensate it for the infrastructure it built in the village worth an estimated €315,000 ($367,000). A school in the community built in 2009 was partially funded by the EU.
On Tuesday, UN Mideast envoy Nickolay Mladenov warned that demolition of the village would impact peace efforts.