PA threatens to cut ties with Israel over Sur Baher demolitions

Moab would be my washbasin; on Edom I would cast my shoe; acclaim me, O Philistia! (Psalm 60:10)

The demolition of 12 buildings in Sur Baher along the security fence in eastern Jerusalem on Monday led to outrage in the Palestinian Authority, with officials warning that the move may lead them to sever relations with Israel.

According to reports, 11 of the buildings were still under construction, while just one contained residents—17 people. The structures were all within 400 meters of the security fence between eastern Jerusalem and the Palestinian Authority in the Wadi al-Hummus section of Sur Baher. While on the Israeli side of the security fence, the demolished structures were located in the P.A.-controlled Area A of the West Bank.

Though a 2011 law prohibits building in that zone, in order to maintain the security of the fence, the buildings started going up anyway in 2014. Residents claim they received permits from P.A. authorities in Bethlehem for the projects and did not know about the prohibition. Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled against the residents last month.

Despite Israel’s legal basis for the demolition, the move was condemned by the United Nations, the European Union, France, Jordan and the Arab League.

The P.A. said it would request a special meeting at the U.N. Security Council and would lodge a complaint against Israel in the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

The United Nations said the demolition was unnecessary, given that the International Court of Justice in 2004 had decided that the security fence was illegal.

The European Union accused Israel of undermining the viability of the two-state solution.

PLO diplomat Saeb Erekat decried the demolition, saying “dozens of families have been evicted from their homes. This is the prosperity they promised us at the Bahrain workshop.” The reference is to the “Peace to Prosperity” conference in Manama, Bahrain last month, which dealt with the economic portion of the Trump administration’s Mideast peace plan.

Erekat added that “Arab normalization [with Israel] is a stab to the back of the Palestinian people,” a reference to the arrival in Israel this week, for the first time, of journalists from Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

The Fatah Central Committee accused Israel of committing “war crimes and ethnic cleansing” with the demolitions, and said they were “a natural outcome of the illegal American decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the occupation state and move its embassy to Jerusalem.”