On Sunday, Finance Minister and Adjunct Minister in the Defense Ministry Bezalel Smotrich sent an urgent missive to Government Secretary Yossi Fuchs, demanding to immediately halt the state’s response to the High Court of Justice regarding Khan al-Ahmar.
On Sunday, I cited an Army Radio report that the state was expected to tell the court that the petition to evacuate the illegal Bedouin settlement of Khan al-Ahmar should be rejected altogether since negotiations are underway to reach an agreed outline for the evacuation (Report: Netanyahu Government Asking High Court to Forget About Khan al-Ahmar). I also noted that the evacuation and demolition of this miserable compound have been postponed nine times and that Prime Minister Netanyahu in February promised his national-religious coalition partners there would be no more postponements, this is it, next time we discuss this issue would be over the smoking ruins of Khan al-Ahmar.
And then, of course, Netanyahu broke his promise, because that’s what he often does on problematic issues: deflects, postpones, swerves. Bibi shies away from problematic issues and conflicts until his back is against the wall.
Smotrich is made from more confrontational stuff, which occasionally gets him in hot water and goes straight to the “controversial issues” on his Wiki page. This time, too, the Religious Zionism leader did not shy away from conflict, and wrote Secretary Fuchs:
Subject: Immediate Stop of Submitting a Response regarding Khan al-Ahmar.
1. At the end of last week I was handed the draft of the state’s response on Khan al-Ahmar. To my great surprise, I discovered that the content does not match my policy and the government’s policy as I understand it.
2. Item 21.4 of the coalition agreement determines that state responses to the High Court of Justice must be approved by the adjunct minister in the defense ministry.
3. Item 14 of the agreement between myself and the defense minister determines that forming the position of the political echelon on judicial procedures that take place before the courts in cases where the state is represented by the state attorney, regarding issues that are the responsibility of the adjunct minister – shall be the responsibility of the adjunct minister.
4. Based on the above items, I am surprised at the fact that no orderly discussion was conducted with my participation in forming the state’s response on this matter.
5. Therefore, based on my authority as determined by the coalition agreement, and the agreement between the ministers, I do not approve of the delivery of this response.
6. I request that you call an urgent discussion with my participation to form the government’s policy and the position that will be presented to the court.
7. Needless to say, until such a discussion and position formation takes place, I do not approve of submitting any other response regarding this matter.
The meeting Smotrich demanded on the evacuation of Khan al-Ahmar took place Sunday night, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and they agreed to change the wording of the state’s response to the high court petition, Reshet Bet radio reported Monday morning.
The state’s response that will be submitted later on Monday will not differ dramatically from the original one, but changes will be introduced at the request of Minister Smotrich, which may encourage the judges to order the government to evacuate Khan al-Ahmar.
I reported on Sunday the state was going to ask the court to reject the Regavim petition that demanded the evacuation of the compound, arguing that the evacuation at this time could have negative consequences for the security situation, that the evacuation could harm Israel politically, and that it is contrary to the understandings reached at the international Sharm al-sheik Summit to bring calm in the area during Ramadan (and hopefully not to relaunch another faux peace process with the Palestinian Authority).
In case you forgot, Smotrich was the co-founder of Regavim, an organization The Jewish Press crowned Man of the Year 5782.