Opinion

Bulldozers Idling in Israel, but Only Until Merkel Leaves

Netanyahu government should scrap plans to demolish Bedouin village in West Bank, but brief reprieve to avoid embarrassing German chancellor is most anyone can expect

Bedouin children from Khan al-Ahmar holds posters of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Palestinian flags in front of the German representative office, Ramallah, West Bank, October 3, 2018.
Nasser Nasser, AP

In view of the visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, which began Wednesday, the government decided to put off the demolition and evacuation of the Jahalin Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar for a few days, so as not to embarrass her. The village residents, exhausted by four months of public and legal struggles and fearing the moment the bulldozers, police and army arrive, have gained another few days of anxiety-wracked waiting.

Israel didn’t need an explicit threat from Berlin to conclude on its own that if the demolition and eviction had taken place before Merkel’s arrival, she would have cancelled her visit, as well as the prestigious consultations between the two countries’ ministers.

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This temporary consideration for the German government shows that the Israeli leadership is well aware of the serious differences in the two countries’ attitudes regarding the proper treatment of Palestinians living in the West Bank in general and the Bedouin in particular. The government seems to understand very well that it has turned its back on the values that were once shared by Israel and Western Europe. The government is prepared to dress up for a few days and behave properly, but once the visit is over, it will return to business as usual.

The period that the Civil Administration gave the Bedouin residents to demolish their simple structures on their own, including the school made of tires, expired on Monday night. Now the Civil Administration is free to implement the demolition orders “in accordance with the ruling by the High Court of Justice.”

However, the High Court ruling only provided legal backing for this abusive act by the state. As in dozens of petitions relating to Bedouin communities and other Palestinian villages in the West Bank’s Area C, the High Court justices ignored the deliberate discrimination in planning and building laws that favor Jewish settlers over Palestinians, forcing the latter to build without permits. Unfortunately, the justices also ignored the two options that the state offered to Khan al-Ahmar residents: to live near a regional landfill or near a regional sewage treatment plant.

>> Read more: Time's Up for Khan al-Ahmar: Israel Can Now Legally Demolish Contested West Bank Village

Instead of taking advantage of the close, warm ties between the two countries to exert diplomatic pressure on Israel to refrain from taking a step that will resonate internationally, it seems Germany is satisfied by Israel’s pretense of restraint during the visit.

What’s particularly aggravating is the Israeli public’s indifference to the impending destruction of a village that has existed there for some 40 years, and the uprooting of its inhabitants to strengthen Jewish settlement in occupied territory. The government ought to be ashamed of its decisions and postpone implementing them – and not just because of Merkel.