German Chancellor Angela Merkel threatened to cancel her visit to Israel if the planned demolition of Palestinian village in occupied West Bank took place before her trip.
Israel’s Army Radio is reported to have been instructed by Merkel’s office that if the Bedouin village of Khan Al-Ahmar was evacuated before her trip, she would cancel her visit which is expected to begin tonight.
The residents of Khan Al-Ahmar were given an 1 October deadline after which Israeli bulldozers were expected to demolish their homes. The delay took many by surprise but news of the threat from Merkel’s office has shed new light into the reason for Israel’s decision to delay it’s demolition of Palestinian homes in order to make way for the construction of Jewish only settlements.
The European Union adopted a strong stance against the decision to demolition Khan Al-Ahmar by describing the Israeli plan as a war crime. As the leading figure of the European block, Merkel risked undermining her standing by visiting Israel after charging its leaders with committing war crimes.
Merkel appears to want to remain consistent with the EU’s position. The block passed a resolution in early September which described Israel’s decision to demolish the Palestinian village as a breach of international humanitarian law. In adopting the resolution the EU demanded compensation from the Israeli government for aid funds invested in the West Bank village and demanded cessation of “policy of threats of demolition”.
The German leader also came under pressure from residents of Khan Al-Ahmar. Yesterday villagers held up pictures of Chancellor Merkel and called for her to help in stopping the demolition of their homes. Children held up placards with the words “Save our school” and “Save Khan Al-Ahmar”.
Israel appears to have backed off temporarily to avoid diplomatic tensions with the Germans but the demolition orders as stated in the notice given to residents on 23 September are expected to go ahead soon.
Merkel is expected to hold a one-day visit in Israel to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin. The visit will also include a trip to the Israel Museum along with Netanyahu and a technological innovation exhibition of six Israeli companies. She will also receive an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Haifa at Springer Auditorium.
Merkel is not scheduled to visit the occupied Palestinian territories or meet with any Palestinian leaders.