Judges seek compromise in Khan al-Ahmar demolition case

The Bedouins of Khan al-Ahmar want to remain where they are but the state wants to relocate them to permanent homes in Jahalin West, a neighborhood of the nearby Area C Palestinian town of Abu Din.

Court hearing on Khan al-Ahmar, August 1, 2018 (Daphna Krause)
The West Bank Bedouin herding village of Khan al-Ahmar received a likely 10-day reprieve from threats of imminent demolition on Wednesday.
Following a lengthy hearing, a panel of three judges put in place a number of additional legal hurdles before any further action can be taken against the community of 52 families.
Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer gave the state five days to provide an alternative relocation site for the village of tents and shacks that is now located off of Road 1, just below the Kfar Adumim settlement.
The state had originally planed to provide permanent homes for the community in Jahalin West, a neighborhood of the West Bank town of Abu Dis.
The village has objected to that location and prefers to remain in its current location.
In the initial part of the hearing, the judges said that this was not possible, but added that the relocation site does not have to be Jahalin West. They asked the state to consider another alternative site.

The state’s attorney Adi Rosenberg said that preparation for an alternative site would unnecessarily drag out the entire relocation process.
Rosenberg said that there had already been nine years of legal proceedings involving the case and that it is best that the village be moved quickly.
But in its ruling after the hearing, the judges ordered the state to come up with a third relocation site within five days and gave the village another five days to respond.
It also allowed the village’s attorney Tawfiq Jabareen to expand on his argument as to why the village should remain in its current location.
During the court hearing, Jabareen explained that the High Court of Justice’s ruling that the village could be relocated was based on the understanding that the property on which it was illegally built was state land.

Jabareen said the site was treated as state land because it was abandoned property, but that the land was still registered under its original Palestinian owners from nearby Anata. The state, therefore, cannot forcibly evict the Khan al-Ahmar residents from private property.
Melcer questioned the timing of bringing such information to light so late in the game. Jabareen said that discovering the correct information had taken until now.
Jabareen further explained to the court that the village would be willing to make minor adjustments to its location, as long as it could remain in the same area.
During the hearing the judges also expressed concern that the new school in Jahalin West was not yet ready, because it had not been hooked up to utilities.
Those utilities should be provided by the Palestinian Authority, which for obvious reasons has not done so, the state said.
The state added that, if need be, it could open the school with generators.
The Jahalin Bedouin had initially lived in the Beersheba area, but Israel relocated them to the West Bank in the early 1950s. The West Bank at the time was under Jordanian control.
The international community, particularly the European Union and the United Nations, have picked up the cause of Khan al-Ahmar. Both organizations have pressured Israel not to forcibly relocate the village.
Representatives from the United Nations, Germany, Italy, France, Great Britain, Sweden and Australia were at the court.
At the end of the debate the judges said they would make a final ruling on the matter, after receiving written responses from both sides. They added that they might not hold another hearing before making a final decision.