The Bedouin herding village of Khan al-Ahmar was not built illegally because its tents and shacks were erected in a desert zoning area, attorney Tawfiq Jabareen told the Civil Administration on Sunday.
“It is called the Judean Desert zone. In this area the law says that you are not probated from building tents and it is still valid today,” Jabareen said after a subcommittee for planning and licensing meeting that took place at the Civil Administration offices outside of the Beit-El settlement.
To underscore his point, he unfurled a 1942 map of Mandatory Palestine, when Great Britain was in charge of the area. Jabareen tacked it onto the wall and showed the startled committee how the West Bank herding village was just outside the agriculture zone.
One committee member was so certain that Jabareen was mistaken, that he walked up to the map to study it together with Jabareen.
The argument was part of a series of new contentions that Jabareen, along with four other attorneys representing Khan al-Ahmar, have put forward in the last month in a last-ditch attempt to save the encampment from forced relocation.
The state has argued the herding village was illegally built on state land and must be moved. The High Court of Justice has upheld the state’s right to move the herding village, but is concerned that a viable relocation option has not been proposed.
Jabareen has submitted three petitions to the High Court in an effort to keep the village of some 180 Bedouin at its current location near the Kfar Adumim settlement. All of his arguments have been based on contending that the legal cornerstones of the case are incorrect, and that the entire issue must be re-evaluated.
Jabareen has further argued that the Civil Administration must allow the village to submit a master plan that would legalize it at its current location.
On Thursday night, the Civil Administration granted Jabareen a hearing to submit the master plan. But once he arrived at the administration offices, Jabareen argued the hearing panel was an appeals committee, and not the original planning committee.
He added that he was not given the material necessary from the committee to properly present a master plan. Typically, such material would be sent to the petitioner seven days in advance.
When handed the material during the meeting, he asked for an extension of 14 days to submit a written response, but that request was denied.
He argued that the desert zoning designation made it impossible to declare the village as illegal.
The subcommittee asked Jabareen why he then had submitted a master plan if he did not believe one was needed.
“You started [it.] You said that [the village] needs a permit and therefore I am requesting one,” Jabareen added.
He also told the subcommittee that the property was privately owned by Palestinians who have given the village permission to submit a master plan.
After the meeting, Jabareen said a restart was necessary since all previous arguments were void.
The state is expected to issue a response to one of the three petitions on Sunday. Earlier this month, it told the court that it planned to relocate the village to a new neighborhood of Abu Dis, called Jahalin West. Alternatively, it wants to relocate it to a site outside of Mitzpe Yeriho.
Khan al-Ahmar has rejected both sites. It has argued that the first site is near a garbage dump and the second is near a sewage treatment plant.
On Thursday Jabareen rejected the option of a relocation site outside of Mitzpe Yeriho, in an argument he submitted to the High Court of Justice. He noted that plans were in the works to expand the sewage treatment plant, a move that would only make the site more untenable.
The fate of the village has garnered international attention, particularly because of its strategic location, right outside of the unbuilt area of Ma’aleh Adumim known as E1.
Right-wing politicians hold that the push to keep Khan al-Ahmar at its current location is part of a Palestinian Authority plan to gain control of Area C. The Palestinians hold that the fate of a viable Palestinian state rests on their ability to include the region outside of Jerusalem where Khan al-Ahmar is located within the future boundaries of their state.
Over the weekend Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ call for popular resistance included statements urging the public to support Khan al-Ahmar.
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