A PALESTINIAN Beduin woman herds livestock near al-Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank last March.
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
The state wants to relocate the illegally built Palestinian Beduin herding village of Khan al-Ahmar and its adjacent tire school to an area just outside of Jerusalem called Jahalin West, prosecutors told the High Court of Justice in a brief submitted Sunday evening.
The brief asked the court to reject a petition by the village and school that requests permission to remain at the present location on the edge of Route 1 and the unbuilt E1 area of the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement.
The left-wing NGO B’Tselem called the plans “forcible transfer,” which it says is a “war crime.”
“Those responsible will bear personal criminal liability,” said B’Tselem director-general Hagai El-Ad.
The state said the community location some 20 meters from Route 1, the main artery from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, presented a “clear and tangible danger” both to the Beduin in the village and drivers on the road.
Most of the families that live there belong to the Beduin Jahalin tribe, which Israel relocated from the Negev to the Ma’aleh Adumim area in 1952.
The state on Sunday told the court that the 52 families in the village of temporary shacks would be given property lots ready for permanent construction in an area called Jahalin West near the town of Abu Dis, just outside of Jerusalem.
Khan al-Ahmar would not be relocated until the new school was completed, likely in April 2018. The current school – small one-room structures made from mud and tires – was built in 2009 primarily with funds from the Italian non-governmental group, Vento di Terra.
The community’s plight has received international attention, including visits over the years from EU, UN and US officials. Last year, the Palestinian Authority held a public ceremony there to mark the start of school.
To date, the community has refused to relocate in part because it fears potential environmental hazards from the alternative site, which is located next to a landfill.
Right-wing Israeli politicians, however, have warned that terrorists could use the community’s location next to Route 1 to execute attacks against cars passing on that road.
They have also warned that the village is part of an overall PA plan to lay claim to Area C of the West Bank, which is now under Israeli military and civil control.
Right-wing politicians and NGOs have called on Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to raze the village.
On Sunday, the HCJ canceled a hearing on the matter scheduled for Monday to allow rebuttal time to the state’s request.
Yaniv Aharoni, a field coordinator for the Jerusalem Periphery Forum said, failure to act against Khan al-Ahmar while simultaneously razing illegal Jewish construction bordered on “criminal negligence.”
Meir Deutsch, of the right-wing NGO Regavim, said failure to act sent the wrong message to the PA.
“We expect the court to put an end to the foot-dragging,” he said.