Merkel Heads to Israel Amid Calls to Prevent Demolition of Contested West Bank Village

Khan al-Ahmar won't be demolished during snap visit to avoid diplomatic tensions; Chancellor won't meet Palestinian officials

Noa Landau
Noa Landau
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Bedouin children hold pictures of German Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of her expected visit to Israel on Wednesday, in the West Bank Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar, Tuesday, October 2, 2018
Bedouin children hold pictures of German Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of her expected visit to Israel on Wednesday, in the West Bank Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar, Tuesday, October 2, 2018Credit: Nasser Shiyoukhi,AP
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will land Wednesday evening in Israel for a traditional bilateral cabinet consultation between the two governments. The visit takes place as the West Bank Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar faces imminent demolition, despite calls from Germany to block the eviction.

During the visit, which takes place almost every year, alternating between Berlin and Jerusalem, the leaders of the two countries meet and there are also discussions between the ministers and joint sessions of the two cabinets.

This event was first proposed by Merkel during the term of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and is aimed at highlighting the close relationship between Germany and Israel.

To mark the visit, Bedouin children in the West Bank village of Khan al-Ahmar demonstrated Tuesday with pictures of Chancellor Merkel and called for her to help stopping the demolition of the village.

One of the students, Iman Abu Dahuk, said that the schoolchildren and the residents expect Merkel to work with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli government to prevent the evacuation and demolition: "For the past two and a half months we have been living in inhumane conditions and we are constantly afraid that the bulldozers may enter any moment. I hope that Mrs. Merkel will succeed in getting the message out and prevent the demolition."

The ultimatum issued by the Civil Administration to the residents of Khan al-Ahmar to evacuate on their own officially expired at the beginning of the week.

None of the residents has demolished his home, however, and therefore Israel is expected to implement the demolition orders as stated in the notice given to residents on September 23. The demolition and evacuation will not take place while Merkel is in Israel due to diplomatic sensitivities. She is expected to raise the issue during her meeting with Netanyahu.

>> The eviction of Khan al-Ahmar stinks up to high heaven | Opinion

Earlier on Tuesday, members of Israeli and German opposition parties met – Meretz, led by MK Mossi Raz and the German Alliance 90/The Greens, led by Bundestag member Omid Nouripour – and they formulated a joint statement calling for “Ending the occupation, stopping the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar and halting the trend of the strengthening of the far right both in Germany and in Israel.”

Also attending the meeting was former MK Colette Avital, member of the Meretz Executive Uri Zaki, and a political adviser to the Greens, Michael Hack.

According to Raz, “The evacuation of Khan al-Ahmar is a war crime that contravenes international law. I hope the international community will mobilize to help stop the demolition of the community and put pressure on the Israeli government.” Nouripour claimed the Palestinians "need a lot of help, as there is a sense of despair among the Palestinian public in the territories."

Speaking of the cash-strapped agency UNRWA, Nouripour added that "the German government is determined to ensure UNRWA’s continued work", adding "We also hope that the destruction of Khan al-Ahmar will be stopped.”

>> The Khan al-Ahmar demolition will be ugly | Opinion

The Combatants for Peace movement also issued a letter calling on Merkel to prevent the evacuation and demolition of Khan al-Ahmar. “While you, the honorable chancellor, will dine with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and take part in the discussions at the Israeli Knesset, you must know that only half an hour from Jerusalem there are people who live in constant fear of losing their homes. In the coming days, a village of hundreds of Palestinian Bedouins and a school of over 100 students will be destroyed and evacuated by force,” the movement’s members wrote.

Merkel will go directly from the airport to dinner with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and will then travel to the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. On Thursday morning she will first visit Yad Vashem and place a wreath in the Hall of Remembrance. She will then receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Haifa at a special ceremony at the Israel Museum, where she will meet with students. The museum is staging an innovation exhibition that Merkel and Netanyahu will tour together with businesspeople from Israel and Germany.

Lunch on Thursday will be with President Reuven Rivlin and at 2 P.M. she will meet with Netanyahu privately, after which the two will hold a press conference. The two are expected to discuss Iran and the escalation in Gaza, with Merkel is expected to issue a protest against Israel’s activities in Area C of the West Bank. Later on the ministers of the German and Israeli governments will meet with their counterparts, to be followed by a joint meeting of both cabinets. Merkel will be returning to Germany Thursday night.

>> The Germans will ignore Israeli apartheid again || Opinion

Merkel will not go to Ramallah or meet with Palestinian representatives during this visit. “The focus of the visit is on relations with Israel and she will meet with Israeli representatives,” the German Embassy in Israel told Haaretz.

In 2017 Merkel canceled the intergovernmental meeting. The official reason was the election in Germany, but German and Israeli officials said another reason was German dissatisfaction with the law allowing the expropriation of private Palestinian land passed by the Knesset at the time.

In June Netanyahu met Merkel in Berlin during a visit to Europe that included stops in London and Paris.

Merkel said then at a joint press conference that Iran’s plan for ballistic missiles had to be dealt with. “The issue of Iran’s regional influence is a very worrying one … which is why we believe we must make every effort we can to address the ballistic missile program.” She added, however, that Germany still believes that the Iran nuclear agreement will prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons.

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