This week Israeli authorities in the occupied West Bank demolished homes and other structures in the Palestinian village of Homsa al-Baquia (Khirbet Humsah), confiscating the community’s tents and livestock pens, bulldozing several structures, and attempting to forcibly transfer its residents to a new location. This is the second time in three months that the community has been demolished – and importantly the first major demolition since President Joe Biden took office.
This demolition is just the latest example of the Israeli government’s systematic policy of de facto annexation of sensitive areas of occupied territory – a policy that includes demolitions, evictions and destructive military training operations on Palestinian lands, all of which have taken place in just the two weeks since the new president’s inauguration.
While “de facto annexation” had an effective green light from the Trump administration, it runs completely counter to President Biden’s stated commitment to a two-state solution and his opposition to acts of unilateral annexation and settlement expansion. The fact that it continues now that President Biden is in office is a clear sign that the Israeli government intends to proceed with business as usual, without any regard for the US position and with the intention of preventing the ultimate creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.
The Biden administration should make clear that these actions are unacceptable, that they run completely counter to American interests and values (as well as to Israel’s own long-term interests) and that there will be consequences if the Israeli government pushes forward with de facto annexation and endless occupation.
Specifically, J Street urges the administration to:
- Determine whether any US-sourced defense articles were used in this operation in violation of the Arms Export Control Act.
- Make clear to the Israeli government that US-sourced defense articles, as well as any materiel purchased with US Foreign Military Financing funds, may not be used in such operations.
- Make clear to the Israeli government that the United States will not use its voice and vote in international organizations to shield Israel from legitimate criticism of such actions and related violations of international law.
While nearly all previous administrations have been vocal about their support for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement and their opposition to creeping annexation, the United States has consistently failed to take meaningful action to hold the Israeli government accountable and impact its behavior. At a time when the Israeli government’s disinterest in serious negotiations with the Palestinians toward two states has never been more evident, the new Biden administration should act swiftly and decisively to change this paradigm and establish a new norm.