J Street is deeply troubled by recent Israeli government moves to displace Palestinians and advance the illegal settlement enterprise in the occupied West Bank. It is especially concerning that these moves are being made just as US President Joe Biden confirmed and is preparing for his first visit as president to Israel.
Earlier this week, the Israeli government won its bid to have the Israeli Supreme Court greenlight the forced displacement of more than 1,000 Palestinians from their homes in several of the Masafer Yatta villages in the South Hebron Hills. The decision by the court to declare the land as a “firing zone” for military use is little more than a thinly-veiled excuse for the Israeli government to seize land from Palestinian families, as was clear when then-Agriculture Minister Ariel Sharon proposed designating the region as a military zone in 1981. The choice to force these families from their land, after a decades-long legal battle, reflects a pattern that we’ve seen time and again – a fundamental refusal by Israeli authorities to respect international law and the civil and human rights of Palestinians living in occupied territory, and a steady push to take control of more and more land beyond the Green Line.
Israel’s systemic pattern of displacement and entrenching occupation was further advanced by today’s announcement that the government will advance the construction of nearly 4,000 new West Bank housing units for Israelis, many in outlying areas beyond the security barrier. As Palestinians are repeatedly prevented from building homes – and having their communities both displaced and demolished – the illegal settlement movement continues to receive permission to build more housing and infrastructure.
It is therefore vital that the Biden administration firmly and unequivocally opposes these harmful actions and the pattern of displacement of Palestinian communities in the occupied West Bank. The United States must not only speak out and push the Israeli government to stop this pattern – it must be clear that these provocative and unjust evictions have serious consequences for US, Israeli and Palestinian interests.
Condemning these harmful actions is not enough. For the sake of Israel’s future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people, and to fulfill its stated commitment to the rule of law and human rights, the United States must take additional steps to ensure that US-origin military equipment may not be used in connection with these unacceptable actions. The Biden administration should also reverse moves by the previous administration that attempted to legitimize and bolster the settlements. Specifically, the administration should reinstate longstanding legal guidance on the status of settlements under international law, and restore customs guidance making clear that goods from the West Bank may not be inaccurately labeled as “Made in Israel.”