Letter to Antony Blinken, Secretary of State - Ahead of Biden Visit to Israel, Stansbury, Merkley, 19 Senators and 62 Representatives Urge Administration to Engage Israeli Government to Prevent Evictions in Masafer Yatta


Dear Secretary Blinken:

We write with urgent concern over the decision by Israel's High Court to allow the military to evict approximately 1,000 Palestinian people from their homes in the Masafer Yatta region of the occupied West Bank. We ask that the Biden Administration immediately engage with the Israeli government to prevent these evictions and seek a solution that will keep people in their homes and prevent further conflict.

After litigation lasting over two decades, the court has ruled that the residents of eight villages may be forcibly removed and their homes demolished to make space for Israeli military use. We are deeply concerned that this relocation of Palestinian families from homes they have lived on for generations could spark violence, is in direct violation of international humanitarian law, and could further undermine efforts to reach a two-state solution. As supporters of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, we believe such evictions undermine our shared democratic values, imperil Israel's security, and disregard Palestinian human and civil rights.

In the early 1980s, Israel established a firing zone in the area of the West Bank that includes the villages of Masafer Yatta. Over the following decades, residents have been denied building permits, had their agricultural lands confiscated, and lived with the threat and reality of demolitions. Additionally, these communities have experienced intensifying attacks from Israeli settlers in nearby settlement outposts built near and within the firing zone.

We are deeply concerned about what may happen if these evictions move forward. We agree with comments you made last May regarding actions "that in the first instance could spark tension, conflict and war and also ultimately undermine even further the difficult prospects for two states" and that such actions include the "evictions of Palestinians from their homes where they lived for decades and generations." We are encouraged by statements made by State Department Spokesman Ned Price that reiterate your point with regard to the High Court's decision on Masafer Yatta, that "it is critical for all sides to refrain from steps that exacerbate tensions and that undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution. This certainly includes evictions.

Evicting Palestinian people from their homes is inconsistent with international humanitarian law, according to Articles 49 and 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and inconsistent with efforts to reach a two-state solution.

We respectfully request that you immediately engage with the Israeli government to prevent these evictions and further military training exercises in the area. We further ask that you encourage the Israeli government to approve master plans for the villages in Masafer Yatta so that these Palestinian communities may build and maintain homes, schools, infrastructure, and sustain their agricultural and pastoral lands. With President Biden visiting Israel in late June, it is critical that the Administration respond quickly to ensure that this momentous trip can deliver concrete steps toward peace.