The Khan al-Ahmar Show Must End

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The imam of Khan al-Ahmar ahead of an evening fast-breaking meal during Ramadan, last year.

Judging by the response filed by the state to the High Court yesterday, this “government of change” doesn’t intend to change anything about Israel’s approach to evicting the Palestinian residents of the West Bank village of Khan al-Ahmar. Instead, it plans to continue the same hypocrisy that characterized its predecessor.

On Sunday, the ministry had already announced that the government will ask the High Court of Justice for six more months in which to formulate its position on Khan al-Ahmar.

Granted, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used to talk a lot about his desire to evacuate the village and his intention to do so, but in practice his successive governments didn’t evict a single resident. And that’s in spite of the fact that the High Court – to its great shame – upheld the decision to raze the village back in 2018 and even urged the government to implement it. Time after time, Netanyahu’s government fudged its positions to the court and bought more time to delay the eviction.

The Netanyahu government’s “left-wing” behavior on Khan al-Ahmar spurred rightists to criticize its leader, including several who depicted themselves at the time as the Israeli right’s authentic representatives – Naftali Bennett, Ayelet Shaked, Gideon Sa’ar and Avigdor Lieberman. Now, all four are members of the cabinet, and Bennett, the settlers’ representative, sits in the Prime Minister’s Office. Yet they, too, are seeking to buy time, just like Netanyahu did. In July, the court gave them six weeks to formulate a new position on the issue, but made it clear that it wouldn’t approve another postponement. Still, this didn’t stop the state from requesting another delay, this time for six months.

Given the current government’s eclectic composition, the person who was sent to carry out this left-wing mission was Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. Granted, he announced a month and a half ago that he planned to reconsider the decision to evict the residents of Khan al-Ahmar, explaining that demolishing the village could undermine Israel’s foreign relations. (“Evacuating the site involves a number of weighty challenges on both the domestic and the international fronts, and could entail many diplomatic consequences.”) But just like Netanyahu, he is carrying out his real policy via the High Court.

Lapid and the rest of this government of change, most of whose members belong to the center-left, need to be told the following: Enough hypocrisy, enough hiding behind the High Court’s skirts. Lapid, Benny Gantz, Merav Michaeli, Nitzan Horowitz and Mansour Abbas – the leaders of five of the eight parties in the governing coalition – need to use their political power to push through a decision to leave Khan al-Ahmar in place, take the plan to evacuate it off the agenda and allow its residents to live their lives without uncertainty. The Khan al-Ahmar show must end.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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