Analysis: Israeli defense minister’s other reason for resigning

The clock is ticking for Israel’s government to make good on its promise to remove the illegal Bedouin outpost of Khan al-Ahmar.

By Bill Mehlman, World Israel News

The news cycle is currently revolving around Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s decision to step down. The main reason he gave, and the only one the media are focusing on, is the Israeli government’s failure to rein in Hamas on the southern border.

Virtually ignored is the second reason he gave — the Netanyahu administration’s failure to evacuate the illegal Bedouin outpost of Khan al-Ahmar.

The clock is ticking on Khan al-Ahmar.  Israel’s Supreme Court has given Prime Minister Netanyahu and his Likud-led coalition until December 2, to move on the Court’s authorization to take down the collection of shacks illegally thrown together 25 years ago in Israeli-controlled “Area C” of Judea and Samaria by members  the Jahalin Abu-Dehuk Bedouin tribe.

A positive response to the December 2 deadline, i.e., the evacuation of the 135-member Bedouin encampment, would nail down  territorial contiguity west of the Jordan River for the Jewish state. The outpost stands strategically astride a four-lane highway linking Jerusalem to the Dead Sea.

It’s either that, warns Jewish Home firebrand MK Bazalel Smotrich, “or Palestinian territorial contiguity from Bethlehem to Jericho and Ramallah.”

Israel’s strategic enhancement from the removal of the Bedouin encampment, moreover, would not end at the Jordan River.

It’s a hop and a skip at that point to Amman, observes Bar-Ilan University political science professor and president of the Institute  for NGO Research Gerald Steinberg, and “from there, some 72 hours later, by car (or tank), to Iraq.”

Anti-Israel forces have no case

The combined opposition to the Supreme Court’s ruling – the Palestinian Authority flanked by the EU and its diplomatic and NGO shock troops – doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on, morally or legally.

Years of negotiation with the Bedouin  tribe on their removal to a nearby area including free allocation of generous plots of land to each of its 28 families, clean water, telecommunication connectivity and a modern school have been frustrated by what outgoing Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman described as “the irresponsibility of a cynical Palestinian leadership that has seized upon the issue as a gold mine for vilifying Israel.”

Mining its own nuggets from this exploitation of a confused Khan al-Ahmar  community, European and U.N. spinmeisters have put the Bedouin site on their “must-visit” list.

Supported by a phalanx of NGO stars, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch among them, their reports and media posts reflect a beyond the water’s edge suggestion that Israel’s attempt to close down the  illegal and unsafe encampment and move its occupants into  clean, modern housing might merit the attention of an international tribunal.

“Millions of euros, krona and pounds from European taxpayers,” Steinberg submits, “are invested in this public relations effort.”

The legal case upon which this effort must stand is especially weak. More than two decades of court examination, court appeals and court rulings underscore this unmitigated fact.

Palestinian flags fluttering above its shacks to the contrary notwithstanding, Khan al-Ahmar stands smack in the middle of an area clearly prohibited by  law for settlement by Bedouins, Palestinians, Europeans or anyone other than its Israeli citizen owners.

That the International Criminal Court has seen fit to involve itself  in this  matter is both a shock and no surprise.

Already well into a “preliminary examination” of  PA allegations of “war crimes” by Israeli political and military leaders, the ICC, as viewed by Alan Baker, director of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs International Law Program, appears to have been adopted by the Palestinians as “their own ‘in-house’ Israel-bashing tribunal.”

Dancing around a prohibition against any action that might reflect on her position as an international official, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda  has plunged headlong into a “preliminary” public spanking of Israel over the proposed  evacuation of Khan al-Ahmar as a possible “war crime” under the ICC’s Rome Statute.

First in the order of  inanities, it has yet to be established that the PA has any standing in this dispute  since, as Baker points out,  “the ICC Statute is open to states only and the legal and politically flawed Palestinian claims to statehood have yet to be considered judicially.”

Secondly, the Rome Statute  argues against the ICC taking action on a complaint if the courts at the national level have dealt with the case.

Israel has been dealing with Khan al-Ahmar for more than two decades. Its High Court of Justice has given the government the power and authority to humanely solve the problem.

“As to those who would question the integrity of Israel’s judiciary,”  Liberman asserted, “this is the same court that is so broadly praised when it comes to relocating Jewish residents from their homes.”

“Absurd, to say the least,” the  Defense Minister adds, “is the notion that moving a small group of people  within a several kilometer radius will somehow stand in the way of resolving the “complex” Israeli-Palestinian impasse.

“Does Israel need to heed such grandstanding?  Do the people [of Khan al Ahmar] need to pay with their health and lives for it? Not on my watch.”

Liberman has exited the building. It is to be wished that his successor will take as firm a stand.