Betzalel Smotrich, Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, has written a letter to US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro that is worth reading in full:
Mr. Daniel B. Shapiro
Ambassador of the United States of America to the State of Israel
Re: The Position of the State Department of the United States regarding the issue of the illegal
Arab encampment adjacent to the town of Susiya
Last week, a statement was issued by the State Department of the United States (Mr. Kirby)
relating to the issue of an illegal Arab encampment near the town of Susiya in south Hebron
This statement indicates both a lack of fundamental understanding of the facts connected to the
illegal encampment referred to above as well as an intolerable intervention by the US
Government into judicial proceedings being conducted in a foreign country under a legal
system with a longstanding international reputation of justice and fidelity to the law.
For the record, here are the true facts connected to this issue, which should dispel the lies and
half-truths being spread by various factions (both from within Israel and abroad) seeking to
discredit the State of Israel and the Israeli legal system.
1. First and foremost it must be clarified that the claim that this refers to an Arab village
that has been in existence for hundreds of years, or even for decades, is, quite simply, a
bald-faced lie. Aerial photographs attest that no settlement existed in the location where
the current illegal encampment stands prior to the year 2000, apart from 4-5 structures,
which were built during the late 90s.
2. Today, the encampment includes more than 64 illegal structures, with more than 54 of
them having been built between 2011-2013. It is clear to any law-abiding person that
this is scandalous.
3. More egregious, is that in addition to illegal building, in 2013 there was an interim order
issued by the High Court of Israel forbidding this illegal construction in this place,
establishing clearly that it was forbidden to carry out any additional illegal construction.
After the order was issued, more than 30 additional illegal structures were built, which
constitutes more than half the total number of structures currently in the encampment, in
direct violation of the standing order issued by the High Court of Israel.
4. In actuality, this is a land grab by the Nuwajah family from the city of Yatta, of lands
that never belonged to them, ignoring the law and building illegal structures in
contravention of administrative orders issued against them by the Civil Administration,
as well as explicit orders issued against them by the High Court of Israel.
5. An inspection of the Population Registry of the Civil Administration revealed that the
majority of family members residing in the illegal encampment, have homes in the city of Yatta – that is, rather than talking about expulsion of people from their land of many
years, this is the removal of squatters.
6. In a most distressing manner, the announcement by the State Department called upon
the State of Israel to engage in dialogue with the illegal residents of the encampment for
humanitarian reasons. This was stated despite the fact that the State of Israel, out of the
utmost leniency and humanitarian concern, and the fact that these families have homes,
has agreed to allocate to residents of the encampment an area in exchange, on State land
adjacent to the town of Yatta in Area C.
There is no doubt that the State Department's announcement is based upon the lies that were
presented to the American administration, since it is otherwise impossible to explain the utter
disconnect between the reality of the situation and the content of the announcement.
However, while one can assume that the State Department has been misled- it still appears that
the statement went well beyond that which is acceptable or appropriate. This statement was not
in reference to policies (in regard to which an expression of opinion or interest by a foreign
country may at times be acceptable) but rather in reference to issues and final rulings of the
Israeli judicial system, as will be explained below.
The issue of illegal construction in this encampment has been adjudicated by before the High
Court of Israel multiple times, beginning with a petition filed in 2001 to the High Court of
Justice when the court was asked to prevent the demolition of the structures, through a petition
filed against the demolition in 2012 and most recently a petition filed in 2014. In each of these
petitions it was found that the claims of the residents of the illegal encampment were false and
building in that location would not be permitted.
In addition, the court noted that it could not accept the fact that parallel too conducting court
proceedings – massive illegal building was taking place. Because of this, and as a result of this
continued illegal building, the court ordered demolition of those illegal structures built in
violation and in contempt of the explicit orders of the court.
All of the above indicates that the issue of the illegal Arab encampment next to Susiya received
the complete attention of the Supreme Court of Israel, which, as known, does not discriminate.
Despite this, and despite the great tolerance demonstrated by the justices in humanitarian issues
connected with the Arab residents of Judea and Samaria – still the court ordered the demolition
of illegal structures in the encampment. The Court even refused the request of the residents of
the village to prevent demolition of the structures and to issue interim orders freezing the
Subsequent to all of this, and despite the fact that it relates to a judicial decision issued in
accordance with the law, the State Department of the United States does not hesitate to
recklessly issue a statement calling upon Israel to prevent the demolition of illegal structures.
There is no doubt that we are speaking of an act that should not have been done, and we must
object to this dangerous intervention ---- into judicial decisions of the legal system of a
sovereign nation that acts in accordance with principles of justice and integrity. It is difficult to
believe that the State Department is calling upon the government of Israel not to act in
accordance with a decision of the High Court of Israel – but this is the reality.
It is unclear how anti-Israel groups find such a receptive ear within the State Department, which
then acts without receiving true and balanced information from official sources of the State of
In light of the above, I request your immediate intervention, in your capacity as the official
representative of the Government of the United States, and that you announce that the
Government of the United States retract its unfounded statement and commit to a full
investigation of how such a statement was issued, without checking and verifying the facts,
while grossly intervening in the legal system of a foreign country.
Member of Knesset
Deputy Speaker of the Knesset