Netanyahu to use demolition of Khan al-Ahmar for votes

A Palestinian man walks children back from school in the occupied West Bank village of Khan al-Ahmar in October 2018. 

Ahmad Al-Bazz ActiveStills

Benjamin Netanyahu might schedule the demolition of the Palestinian village of Khan al-Ahmar right before Israel’s general election in April for political gain.

The prime minister said earlier this month that destroying the village “would certainly help” his chances at winning, according to The Times of Israel.

“I said that Khan al-Ahmar would be evacuated, so it will be evacuated,” he said.

Two of Israel’s government ministers told the publication that Netanyahu is likely “scheduling” the demolition to take place right before the election “in order to garner political capital on the right.”

The newspaper did not name the ministers.

Netanyahu is hoping to remain Israel’s prime minister after the 9 April elections.

His party, Likud, has joined forces with anti-Palestinian ultra-nationalist Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) and the extreme right-wing Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power).

The Otzma Yehudit party calls for the total annexation of the occupied West Bank and the expulsion of Palestinians from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea who are considered “not loyal” to Israel.

The party is inspired by Meir Kahane, who founded the Jewish Defense League, a violent radical Zionist group, in New York in 1968. Kahane called for the total expulsion of Palestinians and inspired a US-born Israeli settler to commit the massacre in Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque, the 25th anniversary of which occurred this week.

Extremism goes mainstream

Netanyahu’s main rival Benny Gantz, the former Israeli army chief, is equally terrible.

Gantz has bragged about how much killing and destruction he committed in Gaza in a series of campaign videos for his new political party posted on YouTube and social media.

Netanyahu’s joining forces with Otzma Yehudit paves the way for that party to enter into Israel’s political mainstream.

Representatives from far-right pro-settlement Israeli organization Regavim erected a banner in Khan al-Ahmar last week, protesting Israel’s delay in demolishing the village.

The banner was removed by the Civil Administration, part of the bureaucratic arm of Israel’s military occupation.

“Israeli authorities have refused to hook up the community to electricity or a sewage system, to pave access roads, have prohibited the construction of homes or structures for public use in the community, and have reduced residents’ pastureland. As a result, the residents live in appalling conditions,” the human rights group B’Tselem stated.

Khan al-Ahmar lies in Area C, which constitutes 60 percent of the occupied West Bank and is still fully controlled by Israel under the Oslo accords signed in the 1990s.

This land east of Jerusalem, in the so-called E1 zone, is where Israel plans to expand its mega-settlement of Maaleh Adumim, completing the isolation of the northern and southern parts of the West Bank from each other and encircling Jerusalem with settlements.

Israel’s high court has given the government a green light to demolish Khan al-Ahmar and forcibly displace its residents, rejecting all petitions against the demolition filed by residents.

In fact, Israel’s high court has never upheld a single petition filed by Palestinians against demolitions, according to a report by B’Tselem.

Israel refuses to permit virtually any Palestinian construction in Area C.

This forces residents to build without permits and live in constant fear of demolition.

“Legal stamp” for illegal behavior

Israel’s high court “provides an implicit legal stamp of approval to the Israeli policy,” B’Tselem has noted.

It does so by regarding those demolitions as “a matter of illegal construction,” brushing off the Israeli government’s long-term expansion plans in the occupied West Bank. Those plans were outlined most recently in the Nation-State Law, approved by the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in July.

The law describes Jewish settlement as a “national value” and commits the state to “encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation.”

The law’s endorsement of Jewish settlement sets no geographic limits, which means it encourages Israel’s ongoing colonization of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as well as Syria’s Golan Heights.

Despite the “implicit legal stamp” provided by Israel’s courts, Israel’s settlement activities are illegal under international law.


Meanwhile, Israel demolished two Palestinian homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina last week, rendering 10 family members, including children, homeless.

The homes belonged to Taysir al-Muhtaseb and his son Shadi. They were demolished on the basis that they were built without permits in 2012.

The Civil Administration filed demolition orders in 2015. The family tried to obtain permits since then but to no avail.

Israeli forces expelled a Palestinian family from their home in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City last week and handed it to Jewish settlers.

The Abu Asab family lived in the house for the past 67 years.

They were forcibly displaced from their home in the Baqa neighborhood in western Jerusalem as part of the 1948 Nakba – the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians carried out by Zionist forces to establish the state of Israel in their place.

Meanwhile, Israel demolished three houses and a warehouse in East Jerusalem earlier this month, without prior notice.

Israel also demolished several structures in the Jordan Valley last week. Israeli forces evicted a family and demolished their tent in the same area last week too.

Dozens of Israeli ministers and members of the Knesset declared their support earlier this month for a settlement plan to move two million illegal settlers to the occupied West Bank.

Among the supporters of the plan are Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, who hold the education and justice portfolios in the Israeli government.

There are currently some 700,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank.


Tamara Nassar

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada.