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Latest From Israel: Controversial Village Demolition And Commentary On U.S. Election

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

As world attention was focused on U.S. elections yesterday, Israeli authorities carried out a controversial demolition of a small Palestinian village. Meanwhile, a former Israeli diplomat watching the elections voiced concern about the state of the U.S. NPR's Daniel Estrin reports from Jerusalem.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: At 11 in the morning yesterday, Israeli bulldozers arrived at a small Palestinian hamlet. It was a surprise to shepherd Yasser Abu al-Kbash.

YASSER ABU AL-KBASH: (Non-English language spoken).

ESTRIN: He says, "they destroyed the shacks we lived in. They destroyed the animal pens. They erased everything." And he says he's, quote, "99% certain Israel was taking advantage of the U.S. elections." There were no journalists around.

Israel frequently demolishes Palestinian structures. But advocates say demolishing an entire hamlet of people is rare. In a written statement, Israel said the shacks were built illegally in a military firing zone. Al-Kbash says he's lived there all his life, and Israel just want them gone. The United Nations condemned the move. It released a statement saying the community is home to 74 people, including children. It's in the Jordan Valley of the West Bank. Palestinians claim it for a future state, but Israeli leaders have said they must permanently control the area because it borders Jordan.

Meanwhile, there was sharp commentary on the election by recently retired Israeli diplomat Dani Dayan, who noted a schism in America.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DANI DAYAN: That schism that I see in American society, in American politics - I don't believe that Donald Trump is interested in consolidating and curing the society. I am not sure Joe Biden is able to.

ESTRIN: Such a critique of U.S. leaders is striking, considering he just served four years as Israel's consul general in New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DAYAN: And I wonder if a superpower, which is obviously Israel's most important ally, can continue to be such when based on a society that, in some senses, is disintegrating.

ESTRIN: In an op-ed he published today in the major Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronot, he wrote, "Israel needs a strong U.S. that trusts in itself."

Daniel Estrin, NPR News, Jerusalem.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.