US blocks UN rebuke of Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes

The UAE has condemned the demolition of about 70 Palestnian homes near Israel's separation wall

This combination of pictures taken on July 22, 2019, shows the demolition of a Palestinian building which was under construction, in the the Palestinian village of Sur Baher in East Jerusalem. AFP
This combination of pictures taken on July 22, 2019, shows the demolition of a Palestinian building which was under construction, in the the Palestinian village of Sur Baher in East Jerusalem. AFP

The United States blocked the United Nations Security Council from passing a resolution condemning Israel’s demolition on Monday of about 70 homes in 10 apartment buildings in a Jerusalem suburb controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

The homes in the village of Wadi Hummus, part of the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sur Baher, were all built in an area controlled by the Palestinian Authority and with the PA's permission. Israel, however, said the buildings were too close to the separation wall dividing Israel and the occupied West Bank and therefore posed a security threat in violation of construction codes.

Palestinians condemned the demolitions – carried out after residents lost their case in Israeli court – as a politicised assault on their sovereignty and Palestinian communities in Jerusalem.

Key international players like the UN, European Union, United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Saudi Arabia quickly condemned the development.

On Tuesday, Indonesia, Kuwait and South Africa circulated a draft statement expressing grave concern over the demolition that “undermines the viability of the two-state solution and the prospect for just and lasting peace,” according to Reuters, who viewed the statement.

The US reportedly refused to support the statement, which needs a consensus within the UNSC to pass, and additionally rejected a revised version.

Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem in 1967, and soon after annexed the latter. Israel approves barely any building requests in Palestinian parts of east Jerusalem and Area C of the West Bank under its control. In turn, Israeli authorities frequently demolish Palestinian homes and structures in these areas built illegally without the required, hard-to-obtain permits.

The demolitions in Wadi Hummus, however, gained international attention both because of the large number of buildings affected and because of the community’s location inside Area A of the West Bank, where per the 1993 Oslo peace accords the semi-autonomous Palestinian Authority is in charge.

Palestinians also said they worried these demolitions could set a new precedent for displacing more residents located along the PA side of the wall.

It is already common for Israeli military forces, in coordination with Palestinian security forces, to enter into Palestinian-controlled parts of the West Bank to arrest people or conduct information-gathering operations.

The Western-backed PA, set up as an interim five-year government as part of Oslo, is unpopular among Palestinians, who say they are fed up with years of mismanagement, corruption, and no end in sight to the occupation.

But attacks on the PA by US President Donald Trump and his administration – including cutting off aid and moving the US embassy to disputed Jerusalem – and the PA’s subsequent refusal to deal with the US administration’s reported peace plan has increased the PA’s popularity.

While the UN and other countries condemned the Wadi Hummus demolitions as a threat to the two-state solution, Palestinians often cite these developments as evidence that on the ground prospects for a two-state solution failed long ago.

Throughout the week, videos of Wadi Hummus families clinging together as Israeli police and soldiers pulled them out of their homes circulated widely on Palestinian social media. So too did a video of Israeli forces congratulating themselves after blowing up a several storey home with explosives.

Updated: July 25, 2019 06:50 PM

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