Khan al-Ahmar tests Israeli sovereignty, Smotrich says

“Khan Ahmar has to be taken down. We have to stand against the world," Bayit Yehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich says.

Palestinians celebrate after Israel delays eviction of West Bank Bedouin village, October 21, 2018 (Reuters)
Khan al-Ahmar should be the test case by which Israel pushes back against international pressure, including before the International Criminal Court, MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi) said on Monday evening.
“Those who cave to pressure only invite more pressure,” said Smotrich as he stood on a sandy hilltop above the illegal West Bank Bedouin herding village of Khan al-Ahmar. Behind him in the distance, the sun set over the hilltops of Jerusalem and the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement.
“The public understands that this is a test of sovereignty and our ability to advance our interests,” Smotrich said.
Below him, residents of Khan al-Ahmar gathered at the entrance to their village, just off of Route 1, waving Palestinian flags.
Smotrich was one of a number of right-wing politicians who opposed the sudden decision by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the cabinet to delay the evacuation of the village of tents and shacks that is home to 180 members of the Jahalin Bedouin tribe.
“Every day that passes that this outpost [village] stands, we lose points with regard to our ability to stand firmly against the world,” Smotrich said.
He explained how the encampment, located between Ma’aleh Adumim and Kfar Adumim, stood exactly in the middle of both Israeli and Palestinian territorial aspirations.
The fate of Khan al-Ahmar is part of that territorial battle, he said.
Israel will either have territorial contiguity from Jerusalem to Ma’aleh Adumim and down to the Dead Sea, Smotrich said.
Or, he said, the Palestinian Authority would have territorial contiguity in this area from Bethlehem to Jericho and to Ramallah, he said.
The continued presence of Khan al-Ahmar at that location, helps them achieve this aspiration.
The European Union wants to help the PA unilaterally achieve this objective, he said.
“Khan al-Ahmar has become a symbol” of this battle, Smotrich said. “But as long as it is a symbol for them, it is a symbol for us.”
Smotrich called on Netanyahu to stand firm against international calls not to take down the village including from the International Criminal Court, whose prosecutor has said that such a move could be considered a war crime.
“If we cave here to international pressure, there will be only be greater pressure,” Smotrich said.
He noted that it would make it harder for Israel to move against any other illegal Palestinian or Bedouin structures, particularly in this area, where such building can choke off Route 1, which is the main artery linking Jerusalem with the Dead Sea.
“Khan Ahmar has to be taken down.
We have to stand against the world.
This is the best case by which we can push back against international pressure from Europe and others,” he said.
Smotrich said he had come to the hilltop outside of Khan al-Ahmar specifically at 5 p.m. instead of sitting in the Knesset plenum and voting with the coalition, to underscore the importance of the situation.
He wished, he said, that more politicians had joined him.
DEPUTY FOREIGN Minister Tzipi Hotovely, who came to the hilltop slightly before him, told The Jerusalem Post that the Supreme Court has been very clear that the community was illegally built.
“We need to remove this community after giving them an alternative.
The Israeli government invested millions in creating this alternative, and I think the international community would be much more helpful if they would not use the Bedouins as a political tool,” Hotovely said.
She referred to a plan to relocate the community to a new neighborhood of the town of Abu Dis called Jahalin West. Khan al-Ahmar has rejected that plan because the site is near a garbage dump.
It is presumed that Israel is now looking at a different alternative, put forward by the community to relocate half a kilometer away from the road on private Palestinian land that is owned by the Palestinian town of Anata.
The right-wing NGO Regavim, which for nine years has called on Israel to remove the village, briefed both politicians about the issue.
France on Monday welcomed Israel’s decision to postpone the demolition and called on it to rescind the demolition entirely.
Khan al-Ahmar is located in an area that is essential for the continuity of a future Palestinian state and is therefore vital for a two-state solution, France said.