Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman last week called on Europe to stop its “flagrant interference” in Israel’s plans to demolish the illegal West Bank Bedouin herding village of Khan al-Ahmar.
Europe has been particularly vocal in its opposition to the demolition, with the European Parliament warning that the forced relocation of the village is a war crime, and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini issuing statements against it to the media.
Liberman sent a letter on October 2 to EU Ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret and the ambassadors from United Kingdom, Sweden, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Italy.
The contents of the letter – a copy of which has been seen by The Jerusalem Post
– was first published in the French daily Le Monde.
Liberman told the ambassadors that the EU and its member states had “grossly misrepresented” the situation in public comments on the matter.
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Europe, the Bedouin, Palestinians and left-wing Israeli organizations had spoken of the forced evacuation of 180 people from land they have lived on since the 1970s, and said the alternative sites Israel offered are next to a garbage dump or a waste sewage treatment plant.
Khan al Ahmar demonstration outside president's home, October 10, 2018 (Tovah Lazaroff)
They have further warned that destroying Khan al-Ahmar, located in the geopolitically sensitive corridor between Jerusalem and Jericho, would make it impossible for that area to become part of the permanent boundaries of a future Palestinian state.
Liberman told the European ambassadors that Khan al-Ahmar’s current location just off of Route 1, below the Kfar Adumim settlement, places the Bedouin residents in danger.
“Khan al-Ahmar is a cluster of makeshift shacks erected illegally” by members of the Abu-Dahuk clan of the Jahalin Bedouin tribe, housing some 28 families, Liberman wrote.
“The compound is situated precariously close to the adjacent highway, presenting an imminent safety hazard to its residents, and in particular to the children attending its makeshift school.
“Your governments are condoning the continued exposure of these people and their children to serious health and safety hazards, forcing them to reside in a place without even minimal health and electric and fire-safety conditions.”
Israel, Liberman said, wants to provide these Bedouin families with “plots of land, provision of proper water and sewage infrastructures, telecommunications and safe electrical connectivity, and the construction of a new school.
“[It’s] absurd [to] claim that relocating the residents to proper homes nearby will somehow preclude an eventual political resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
“The idea that moving a group of some 100 people within a five-kilometer radius will prevent a resolution to such a complex historical conflict is hysterical nonsense,” Liberman wrote.
The High Court of Justice has ruled that it is legal to relocate the shantytown, the defense minister explained, noting that this was the same court that also ruled on the evacuation of illegally built Jewish homes in the West Bank.
“Numerous, respected international measures of judicial independence have consistently ranked Israel’s judiciary as among the most independent in the world, including in comparison to many of the countries represented by your governments’ statement,” Liberman wrote.
“Thus, with all due respect, Israel’s fiercely independent and highly respected High Court needs no lectures on jurisprudence, with respect to international law or otherwise, from either your countries individually, or from the European Union collectively.”
Europe would be equally upset if Israel questioned its “internal judicial processes,” Liberman said as he called on the EU to respect Israel’s judicial institutions and its internal affairs.
The defense minister in his letter did not make mention of Israeli building plans close to Khan al-Ahmar.
The European Union Embassy in Israel said in response to Liberman’s letter, “The community of Khan al-Ahmar is located in a sensitive location in Area C, of strategic importance for preserving the contiguity of a future Palestinian state.
“The consequences of a demolition of this community and the displacement of its residents, including children, against their will, would be very serious and would severely threaten the viability of the two-state solution and undermine prospects for peace,” the EU said.
As Mogherini has already stated, “The EU expects the Israeli authorities to reconsider their decision to demolish Khan al-Ahmar.”
Residents of Khan al-Ahmar have repeatedly stated that they wish to remain in their current location, but would be willing to move further back from the road. The Civil Administration rejected a master plan the village submitted that would have allowed for a legally constructed village in that area.
Since October 2, the village has been on high alert, awaiting the imminent arrival of Israeli security forces to demolish its tents and shacks.
It is presumed that Israel delayed the demolition because of the visit last week by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
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