Days before the election, Netanyahu promises to evacuate Khan al-Ahmar

“This will happen very soon, as soon as possible,” Netanyahu said.

Arial view of Khan al-Ahmar and Route 1 (photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
Arial view of Khan al-Ahmar and Route 1
(photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to evacuate the illegal West Bank herding village of Khan al-Ahmar in a series of weekend interview he gave just prior to Tuesday’s election.
“This will happen very soon, as soon as possible. I promised and it will happen,” Netanyahu told Channel 12 on Saturday night.
In an interview with the Hebrew news organization Makor Rishon, he said that before acting against the village of huts and tents, which is home to 180 members of the Jahalin Bedouin tribe, he had to “dismantle a diplomatic-legal ambush.”
Netanyahu said now that he has resolved the legal and diplomatic issues, he plans to coordinate with the security forces to remove the encampment.
The parties to the right of the Likud, have hammered over the last few months over this failure to do so. The right-wing NGO Regavim hasn’t waited for electoral politics to force his hand. It turned to the High Court of Justice and asked that he make good on past pledges to evacuate Khan al-Ahmar.
The court responded this week, that the state must explain by May 1 why it has not evacuated Khan al-Ahmar.
Regavim’s demolition request also included the elementary school adjacent to the village. Built with European funds, it is known as the Tyre school.
Regavim told the court that its petition was the sixth against the village, which it called an “outpost,” and the school in the last decade.
In May 2018, the High Court of Justice (HCJ) ruled that the village and the school could legally be demolished, but it did not insist that they must be removed. As such, no court mandated date was given for an evacuation.
The justices in past remarks have been clear that they do not wish the village to remain at its current location, just off of Route 1, on the outskirts of the Kfar Adumim settlement, in between Jerusalem and Jericho.
At the same time, the justices have urged both the Bedouin community and the state to find an agreed upon alternative location.
The Khan al-Ahmar Bedouin, who have been at that their present location since the 1970s, have insisted on remaining there but would be willing to relocate a short distance further from Route 1.
They also rejected the two alternative sites presented by the state in the same region of Area C outside of Jerusalem where Khan al-Ahmar is located.
The first is located next to a garbage dump in a new neighborhood of Abu Dis, called Jahalin West. The second site is next to a wastewater treatment plant not far from the settlement of Mitzpe Yericho.
Former defense minister Avigdor Liberman had been close to evacuating the community in October, but his efforts were thwarted by Netanyahu who at the last minute halted the proceedings after Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit said that from a legal perspective he needed to make another attempt to come to an agreement with Khan al-Ahmar’s residents.
The decision to delay the demolition also came after a warning by Fatou Bensouda, the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court at The Hague, that such a move could constitute a war crime.
At the time, Netanyahu promised that Khan al-Ahmar would be demolished soon.
“Khan al-Ahmar will be evacuated. It is a decision of the court. It is our policy and it will be executed,” Netanyahu told his faction in October.
In its petition to the HCJ, Regavim stated that it seemed as if Netanyahu and defense officials believed they had fulfilled their obligations to the court simply by making declarative statements.
By failing to enforce the evacuation of Khan al-Ahmar, the state is undermining the principle of law and order and eroding the public’s trust in the government and the courts, Regavim stated in its petition.