In Ruling to Delay Demolition of Palestinian Village Khan al-Ahmar, Israel’s High Court Rescues Netanyahu

T. Belman.  This is not a legal ruling, it is a political ruling.  As such it is for the Knesset to decide when to follow the law.

In deciding to block the eviction of Khan al-Ahmar, Netanyahu discovered that he’s lucky he hasn’t managed to destroy the High Court of Justice just yet

By Jonathan Lis,  HAARETZ   8.5.23

The Palestinian village of Khan al-Ahmar.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

The Justices of the High Court of Justice handed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a significant lifeline on Sunday, helping him dodge a powerful diplomatic landmine.

This may be one of the main banners waived by the ministers of the right-wing government in the recent elections, but Netanyahu himself has signaled more than once over the past years that he cannot, and perhaps does not want to, evacuate the Palestinian village of Khan al-Ahmar. Time after time, Israel’s governments, included those headed by himself, have refrained from clearing the tiny locality that has become a symbol.

The judges, relying on secret information presented by the government, declared that although the illegal village should be evacuated, it cannot be done at present “due to current reasons related to national security and foreign relations,” making it clear that the importance of these considerations “far exceeds the public need for enforcing planning and construction regulations.”

There is no need for a high security clearance or familiarity with state secrets to understand what the judges were considering: The evacuation of Khan al-Ahmar is considered a bright red line to the European Union and the international community. Their senior officials made sure to announce their unequivocal opposition to the evacuation in a series of public announcements. Any Israeli move on the ground would have lit a fire throughout the Palestinian Authority, and alongside Europe, would rouse Jordan, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates against Israel. World suspicion of Netanyahu’s current government only needs a match to light a wildfire, as it is.

The right has turned Khan al-Ahmar into a symbol of legalized discrimination, demanding that its inhabitants be removed, as Israel does with Jewish outposts erected in the West Bank. The courts have sustained this argument. But Minister Bezalel Smotrich let the cat out of the bag this week, when he made it clear that the reason to insist on evacuating Khan al-Ahmar is different, and has to do with the right-wing attempt to take over the space between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim. According to Smotrich, Khan al-Ahmar “sits in a strategic space, Ma’aleh Adumim, E1, Route 1 – that’s the space that will determine if, heaven forbid, there will be an Arab territorial continuum connecting Bethlehem with Nablus and Ramallah. That’s why we’re investing in this space now, and that’s why Khan al-Ahmar will be evacuated.”

Israel has tried to solve the crisis with a series of offers to the residents, to relocate the village to various sites. Although the Khan al-Ahmar leadership agreed to some of the proposals, Israel claimed that the Palestinian Authority blocked them time and again.

This time, at the state’s request, the judges gave Netanyahu a shield from the right’s whims on the matter. It is doubtful whether rubber stamp High Court justices, in a post-regime-upheaval era, could have delivered as great a victory. “The government must shift to a fully-fully right-wing policy,” National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir fumed for the umpteenth time, bemoaning other “moderate” decisions by the government, such as repatriating the Jordanian parliament member caught smuggling weapons to be tried there, or returning the bodies of terrorists killed in clashes with the IDF to the Palestinian Authority for burial.

“This is unacceptable to us and cannot go on like this,” he said, upon deciding to boycott the government’s meeting yesterday, adding: “The policy must change – and it must happen.” We will see soon whether the pressure gets through.

May 8, 2023 | Comments »

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