Netanyahu must raze Khan al-Ahmar despite int'l pressure, Likud MKs say

The High Court of Justice ruled in 2018 that the structures in Khan al-Ahmar could be razed but this never ended up happening.

 Likud MKs Yuli Edelstein and Danny Danon visit the Bedouin village Khan al-Ahmar, in the West Bank on January 23, 2023. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Likud MKs Yuli Edelstein and Danny Danon visit the Bedouin village Khan al-Ahmar, in the West Bank on January 23, 2023.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must ignore international pressure and raze the illegal West Bank Bedouin herding village of Khan al-Ahmar, Likud politicians said on Monday in advance of a February 1 court hearing on the matter. 

"The illegal Khan al-Ahmar outpost should be evacuated. The international community will not dictate Wild West policies to us in Israel," said MK Danny Danon, who chairs the organization World Likud.

"Israel is a state of law. We must not put up with selective law enforcement. Khan al-Ahmar must be evacuated immediately."

MK Danny Danon

He spoke during a press point near the herding village of tents and huts that overlooks Route 1, just below the Kfar Adumim settlement. He was joined by the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Yuli Edelstein.  

They were joined by representatives of the right-wing NGO Regavim, which filed a court case against the village in 2019. It was the latest step in their protracted legal battle against the hamlet that dates back to 2009.

 View of the Bedouin village Khan al-Ahmar, in the West Bank on January 23, 2023.  (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) View of the Bedouin village Khan al-Ahmar, in the West Bank on January 23, 2023. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

"I came here today to the illegal outpost of Khan al-Ahmar in order to strengthen our government in advance of its response to the Supreme Court regarding the eviction of this site, an action that has been postponed for over six years," Danon said.

"The Khan al-Ahmar outpost was established by an unlawful Palestinian takeover of state lands and the illegal buildings here should have been vacated and demolished a long time ago. 

"Israel is a state of law. We must not put up with selective law enforcement. Khan al-Ahmar must be evacuated immediately," he said. 

Edelstein said the government should deliver "a sharp and clear statement: Khan Al Ahmar should be evacuated. It is forbidden to reward lawbreakers.

"The failure to raze Khan Al Ahmar legitimizes Palestinians."

"It is clear to everyone that these people have become propaganda tools in the hands of those who are anti-Israeli and are preventing the people there from receiving a proper permanent solution," Edelstein explained.

Netanyahu, Gallant create coalition crisis

Their argument has gained steam this week, not just because of the upcoming court date, but also due to Netanyahu's decision to evacuate on Friday an illegally built settler outpost in the Samaria region of the West Bank less than 24 hours earlier.

He said that he had done so out of respect for the law, a statement that immediately irked the settlement movement and right-wing politicians, who believe that the IDF has not done enough to crack down on illegal Palestinian building.

The outpost evacuation also sparked a coalition crisis, given that based on the agreement with the Regional Zionist Movement is chairman, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has also been given a ministerial position in the Defense Ministry tasked with oversight with respect to Israeli and Palestinian building in Area C of the West Bank.

 Jewish men try to rebuild Or Chaim illegal outpost, named after late religious Zionist leader Rabbi Chaim Druckman, in the West Bank, on January 22, 2023. (credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90) Jewish men try to rebuild Or Chaim illegal outpost, named after late religious Zionist leader Rabbi Chaim Druckman, in the West Bank, on January 22, 2023. (credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)

Netanyahu's authorization of the outpost evacuation clarified that Smotrich did not in fact have full control over construction issues in Area C of the West Bank, which is under IDF military and civilian control and is where all the settlements are located. 

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir handed out six examples of new illegal Palestinian construction, including permanent structures in Area C of the West Bank.

Netanyahu dismissed the claims that the IDF was not taking enforcement action against illegal Palestinian construction. He later tweeted that "since the beginning of the month, the security establishment has evacuated 38 illegal Palestinian buildings in Judea and Samaria. 

"The situation in which illegal Palestinian construction runs amok to establish facts on the ground - is over," he stated.

Is Khan al-Ahmar just one piece of the puzzle?

The Israeli right has been concerned that the Palestinian Authority's support for Khan al-Ahmar is part of its plan to de facto seize control of Area C, particularly in the strategic area around the Ma'aleh Adumim settlement with its E1 hilltop.

The 180 Bedouins who live in Khan al-Ahmar belong to the Abu Dahuk clan of the Jahalin tribe that were expelled from the Negev and into the West Bank after the War of Independence. They settled into their current location in the 1970s and would like to remain there.

Israel has sought to avoid a violent demolition of their homes, by finding a compromise solution.

The High Court of Justice ruled already in 2018 that the structures in Khan al-Ahmar could be razed. Netanyahu halted plans to demolish the village after receiving a warning from the International Court of Justice's former chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda that such a demolition could be considered a war crime.

The judges now hearing the case, have asked the state for plans regarding the razing of the village.