The High Court of Justice threatened Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that it would force him to evacuate the small illegal West Bank herding village of Khan al-Ahmar unless the state submitted a clear plan for the hamlet by April 2.
It set a May 2 hearing, prior to issuing a ruling on a 2019 petition by the right-wing group Regavim asking the court to force the state to raze the small community of huts and stacks located above Highway 1, near the Kfar Adumim settlement.
High Court fines state NIS 20,000
It also fined the state NIS 20,000 for failing to meet its submission dates nine times. Instead of adhering to the latest February 1 deadline, it asked the court to extend the submission date to June 1.
The court initially ruled in 2018 that there was no legal impediment to destroying the illegally built hamlet, which is home to the Jahalin Bedouin’s Abu Dahuk clan, but did not order the state to do it.
High Court Justice Noam Sohlberg warned that if the requested affidavit was not “submitted on time,” the justices would consider canceling the hearing and “making the conditional order” of 2018 “absolute, based on the material before us.”
The group Friends of the Jahalin said in response that the state would do well to use that time to authorize a professionally drawn-up master plan, which would place the community at a nearby location that would allow the Abu Dahuk clan to maintain its herding lifestyle.
Regavim has pushed for the village to be relocated to an already-zoned section of the town of Abu Dis in Area C, which is located near a landfill. The residents of Khan al-Ahmar have rejected this plan. It has the backing of two of Netanyahu’s coalition partners, the Religious Zionist Party and the Otzma Yehudit Party.
Netanyahu, who was prime minister when the court ruled in 2018, and who returned to power in December 2022, has sought to avoid a forced demolition that would lead to violent clashes. He is also under international pressure to avoid such a move. Former International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda had also warned him that such a move could constitute a war crime.
Both he and his two predecessors, Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid, had sought to delay the issue. The projection is that Netanyahu will continue to do so.
If he forcibly relocates the village, he creates an international crisis for Israel – and if he doesn’t, he sets off a political one.
Netanyahu had told reporters in Paris last week that he preferred to secure an agreement with the Jahalin Abu Dahuk clan to relocate, a step they have publicly opposed.
High Court 'uncomfortable' with state's conduct
Sohlberg expressed his frustration when he set the hearing date, noting “we have repeatedly expressed our displeasure with the [state’s] ‘foot-dragging.’”
Also, the court is not “comfortable with the state’s” contradictory conduct.
On one hand, it has repeatedly affirmed its intention to relocate the village, but then its conduct has shown that it is comfortable with allowing Khan al-Ahmar to remain in its current location, Sohlberg wrote.
The state has banked on the court’s unwilling acquiescence to this situation in which it repeatedly seeks to delay the matter, which is essentially a way of “deciding not to decide,” he wrote.
“It is not possible to know whether the current extension request is the last, and when experience shows that rejection leads to rejection without any substantive answer.”