Merkel: Khan al-Ahmar demolition is an Israeli decision

The Civil Administration warned Khan al-Ahmar residents that they must demolish their modular homes by October 1.

Khan al Ahmar demonstration outside president's home, October 10, 2018 (Tovah Lazaroff)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel refrained from publicly criticizing Israel over it’s pending demolition of the illegal West Bank Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, during her two-day trip to Israel that ended Thursday.
“This is an Israeli decision," she said at a morning event at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, during which the University of Haifa conferred upon her an honorary doctorate.
She also held a question and answer period with Haifa University students, during which one of them pressed her on an Army Radio report that she had threatened to cancel her trip if Israel if Israel razed the encampment of tents and shacks before her arrival.
“Well, that is absolutely false. Time and again it was claimed that we conditioned our trip on this. We never spoke about this in government. This information came to us from Israel, that we might not travel, and that is absolutely false,” Merkel said.
Germany has been one of the European countries that has been publicly critical of Israel’s planned demolition of the village. It has also attacked Israel for its continued settlement building,
Khan al-Ahmar residents appealed to her to intervene. Angela Godfrey-Goldstein, the director of the NGO Jahalin Solidarity, wrote a letter to Merkel on behalf of the Khan al-Ahmar children.
IDF demolition plans also include the razing of the village’s “Tyre” school built with European funding.
The children “send you an urgent message: ‘Miss Angela — please save our school!,” Godfrey-Goldstein wrote.
Some 18 elementary school children also held a small demonstration outside the President’s residence in Jerusalem during the meeting between Merkel and President Reuven Rivlin.
Border police officers placed steel gates around the children and there was a heavy officer presence around them, with police restricting access to photograph the event.
At the Israel Museum, Merkel noted only, that the two countries did not see eye-to-eye on this issue.
“One can disagree on it, about the settlement policy, and I definitely have some critical remarks to make because I believe in the two-state solution, but that is not relevant here.
“We are democracies and we can exchange different political opinions, also with the prime minister, but the trip was never up for debate.
“I heard this shortly before the trip, and I thought thank God we are taking off in half an hour, then they will surely believe that we are coming.
“But really, sometimes its like fighting against windmills, it's the time of fake news," Merkel said.
Among those who shook Merkel’s hand on stage at the Israel Museum was Education Minister and Bayit Yehudi party member Naftali Bennett, who holds that Khan al-Ahmar should be evacuated..
According to his office, he told her she was a true friend of Israel and the Jewish people. "It is clear that your attitude towards Israel comes from the depths of your soul."
He told the media, "I am glad that the chancellor made it very clear that the story about Khan al-Ahmar is absolutely fake news. The State of Israel’s connection with Germany is of strategic importance. We will continue to strengthen it at all levels,” Bennett said
Uri Bollag and Tamar Beeri contributed to this report.