If Merkel is here, then so is Khan al-Ahmar

German representatives, have been among the many European diplomates who have made solidarity visits the village located below the Kfar Adumim settlement.

A boy walks past a wastewater pond in the Palestinian Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar that Israel plans to demolish, in the West Bank October 2, 2018 (photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)
A boy walks past a wastewater pond in the Palestinian Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar that Israel plans to demolish, in the West Bank October 2, 2018
(photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit on Wednesday and Thursday has apparently delayed the demolition of the illegal West Bank Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar.
Germany is one of the countries that along with the European Union has been warning Israel not to take down the encampment of tents and shacks that is home to 180 Jahalin Bedouin.
German representatives have been among the many European diplomats who have visited the village located below the Kfar Adumim settlement just off of Route 1.
The Khan al-Ahmar demolition, along with settlement building and the Iran deal, are among the issues likely to create tension in a visit that is otherwise designed as a public relations gesture to highlight the strong ties between Israel and Germany.
But of all three issues, Khan al-Ahmar has generated the most public attention in advance of Merkel’s arrival.
The demolition has struck an emotional chord among Israelis who support it and Palestinians who oppose it, because the region between Jericho and Jerusalem is deemed to be a critical strategic corridor.
Army Radio reported on Wednesday morning that Germany warned Israel that Merkel’s visit would be canceled if the village were to be razed prior to her arrival. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said he was “not aware” of threats by Merkel to cancel if the village was evacuated.
A German Embassy spokeswoman denied the Army Radio report, stating that Merkel had not considered canceling the German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit on Wednesday and Thursday has apparently delayed the demolition of the illegal West Bank Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar.
Germany is one of the countries that along with the European Union has been warning Israel not to take down the encampment of tents and shacks that is home to 180 Jahalin Bedouin.
German representatives have been among the many European diplomats who have visited the village located below the Kfar Adumim settlement just off of Route 1.
B'Tselem at the proposed relocation site of Khan al-Ahmar, August 15, 2018 (Tovah Lazaroff)
The Khan al-Ahmar demolition, along with settlement building and the Iran deal, are among the issues likely to create tension in a visit that is otherwise designed as a public relations gesture to highlight the strong ties between Israel and Germany.
But of all three issues, Khan al-Ahmar has generated the most public attention in advance of Merkel’s arrival.
The demolition has struck an emotional chord among Israelis who support it and Palestinians who oppose it, because the region between Jericho and Jerusalem is deemed to be a critical strategic corridor.
Army Radio reported on Wednesday morning that Germany warned Israel that Merkel’s visit would be canceled if the village were to be razed prior to her arrival.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman said he was “not aware” of threats by Merkel to cancel if the village was evacuated.
A German Embassy spokeswoman denied the Army Radio report, stating that Merkel had not considered canceling the visit at any point.
“There was never any doubt that the government-to-government consultations would take place,” she said.
The right-wing Israeli NGO Regavim, which supports the village’s demolition, argued that Israel should delay any action against the village in order not to create a diplomatic incident.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should instead use the meeting to pressure Germany to cease its support for illegal Palestinian and Bedouin construction in Area C of the West Bank, the NGO said in a statement.
“Netanyahu’s meeting with Chancellor Merkel is an important opportunity that should not be missed – an opportunity to tell the chancellor, ‘Genug ist genug’ [Enough is enough],” the statement said.
“Netanyahu must demand that Germany immediately stop the flow of funds to illegal Palestinian Authority activities, including the creation of illegal outposts such as Khan al-Ahmar. Just as the State of Israel does not interfere in Germany’s immigration policy or its treatment of refugees, Germany must cease its hypocritical and brazen interference in Israel’s internal affairs.”
MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi) tweeted in English, “If I was prime minister, I would evict the village while Merkel’s aircraft is in the air so that she will then turn around and go back.”
The Civil Administration had warned Khan al-Ahmar residents that they must demolish their modular homes by October 1. Such a warning is one of the preliminary steps to a forced demolition that would include the razing of the village’s elementary school, which was built with European donations.
The High Court of Justice ruled last month that there is no legal impediment to the state’s plan to relocate the Jahalin Bedouin to a new neighborhood of the West Bank town of Abu Dis called Jahalin West, or to any other location.
The Khan al-Ahmar Bedouin have rejected the Jahalin West location because it is next to a garbage dump. Many people anticipated that Israeli security forces would act forcibly to evacuate the village after that rejection, possibly as early as Tuesday or Wednesday. However, to date, no such action has taken place, and it is presumed that the demolition has been postponed until after Merkel’s visit.
Khan al-Ahmar residents have used the lull to ramp up their campaign to halt the demolition, appealing to Merkel through photographs on social media that include pictures of the German chancellor.
The left-wing Israeli NGO B’Tselem tweeted on the village’s behalf: “The children of #khanalAhmar, a Palestinian village facing demolition by Israel, sending a message to Angela Merkel before her official visit to Jerusalem tomorrow: ‘No to demolishing Khan al-Ahmar. Save our school.’”
The European Union and individual European nations have in the last five or six years expressed increasing concern over Israeli demolitions of illegally built Palestinian and Bedouin structures and the lack of approvals granted for such structures.
The EU in particular has provided funds for the illegal construction of such homes. That funding, settlement building and support for the Iranian nuclear deal are among the points of tension in the European Union’s relationship with Israel.
Merkel’s visit, which will not include a trip to the Palestinian territories, is designed to highlight the strong ties between Israel and Germany. She will arrive with a number of ministers for a government-to-government meeting to underscore the special ties between the two countries. Israel also holds such talks with the Czech Republic, Romania, Greece and Italy.
The visit has been delayed for a year and a half, in part because of Germany’s objection to renewed settlement efforts.
On Tuesday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman traveled to the West Bank settlement of Karnei Shomron to highlight his efforts to promote Jewish building in Judea and Samaria.
There are 11,000 settler housing units in various stages of construction and another 11,000 buildings in various planning stages, he said.
Juliane Helmhold and Herb Keinon contributed to this report.