Security cabinet approves ‘several weeks’ delay on Khan al-Ahmar demolition

Attorney general warned cabinet against forcibly demolishing Bedouin village

US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, October 21, 2018

Times of Israel staff and Jacob Magid report ,”The security cabinet on Sunday approved a delay of the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar by “several weeks” to provide time for negotiations for an agreed-upon evacuation of the residents of the central West Bank Bedouin hamlet. Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of the coalition’s Jewish Home party were the lone votes against the proposal submitted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Bennett and Netanyahu had reportedly met prior to the meeting to discuss the matter.”

“Facing a fierce backlash from his coalition’s right flank, Netanyahu vowed earlier in the day that the Bedouin hamlet east of Jerusalem “will be evacuated.” The promise came hours after Netanyahu’s office announced the planned evacuation would be delayed indefinitely amid new talks between the government and the ramshackle village’s residents. The delay drew angry responses from Jewish Home party lawmakers, who called the decision “infuriating and outrageous.”

“In a statement to the press alongside US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who is visiting Israel, Netanyahu said, “Khan al-Ahmar will be evacuated. That’s the decision of the court, that’s our policy, and it will be carried out. I have no intention of delaying indefinitely, unlike what the press is reporting, but for a limited and short period.” (more…)

Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit

Times of Israel reports, “Ahead of the cabinet’s vote to delay the demolition of a West Bank Bedouin village, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit warned ministers that a forced evacuation of Khan al-Ahmar could compromise the Israeli position vis-a-vis Palestinian claims against the Jewish state at the International Criminal Court, according to a television report on Sunday night. Ministers at the Sunday meeting told the Kan public broadcaster that Mandelblit highlighted the legal implications and urged the cabinet members to ensure that Israel exhausts all options to reach a voluntary clearing of the hamlet, whose fate has drawn international scrutiny.”

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks during a meeting of his Yisrael Beyteny faction

“The attorney general’s office would neither confirm nor deny Mandelblit’s reported comments, the report said. The sources also noted that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told ministers several times to make every effort to prevent a demolition of the village by force. Netanyahu also reportedly told the cabinet that delaying the razing is necessary in order to complete political and international preparations, on the chance there is no alternative but to forcibly evacuate the hamlet.”

Khan al-Ahmar, An Israeli soldier stands next to excavators

“Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of the coalition’s Jewish Home party were the lone votes against the proposal submitted by Netanyahu to delay the evacuation by several more weeks. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Sunday night also confirmed that the attorney general’s intervention prompted ministers to vote to postpone the demolition. He said that while the government should still try to secure a voluntary evacuation, and despite the agreed-upon delay, a decision has now been taken to demolish Khan al-Ahmar and there will be no going back.” (more…)

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