Netanyahu asks court to delay Khan al-Ahmar evacuation by four months

"The residents want to stay there."

THE BEDOUIN encampment of Khan al-Ahmar near Ma’aleh Adumim. (photo credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90)
THE BEDOUIN encampment of Khan al-Ahmar near Ma’aleh Adumim.
(photo credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90)
The state affirmed its commitment to evacuate the illegal West Bank Bedouin herding village of Khan al-Ahmar, but asked the High Court of Justice on Monday to allow a four-month delay to attempt to reach an agreement by which the residents would leave voluntarily.
“The upper echelon still affirms the need to execute the demolition orders against the compound and there is no change in this position,” the state’s lawyers told the High Court.
The Prime Minister’s Office and the Defense Ministry, however, want to make yet another attempt to sway the residents to evacuate of their own accord. For these reasons, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, “the upper echelon needs a number of additional months,” the state said.
Khan al-Ahmar residents have in the past rejected any relocation attempts by the state, insisting that they want to remain in the encampment, located just off of Route 1, below the Kfar Adumim settlement.
“The residents want to stay there,” Khan al-Ahmar’s attorney, Tawfiq Jabareen, told The Jerusalem Post after viewing the state’s response.
Earlier court decisions had permitted the encampment’s removal, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly pledged to evacuate it but has never made good on that promise. In 2018, the International Criminal Court chief prosecutor warned Netanyahu that the destruction of Khan al-Ahmar would constitute a war crime.
Some of the delay has been chalked up to the prolonged election cycle and the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the absence of any action by the state against the village, the right-wing NGO Regavim had petitioned the High Court to force the state to uphold the law.
On Monday, however, the state said Netanyahu and Alternative Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz would weigh an evacuation only after renewed negotiations with the residents had failed. National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat and Defense Ministry settlements adviser Avi Ro’eh both signed off on the response.
Khan al-Ahmar’s 180 residents are members of the Jahalin Bedouin tribe that Israel forcibly relocated in the early 1950s from the Negev to the West Bank, when it was under Jordanian rule. The Abu-Dahuk clan of Jahalin first moved to the Khan al-Ahmar site in the 1970s but has never received permission to inhabit the site.
The community’s location is viewed as problematic from a safety perspective because its tents and hunts are perched on the edge of Route 1. It is also on the edge of the planned expansion of the contentious E1 area of the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement.
The state in the past has presented the community with two alternative relocation sites, one near a landfill and one near a wastewater treatment site. The Civil Administration has rejected a plan Jabareen submitted on Khan al-Ahmar’s behalf that would have left the community at its current location but would allow for some of the structures closest to the road to be moved to another location within the community.
Regavim has fought a legal battle against the community for over a decade and has argued that the Palestinian Authority is behind the community’s opposition to relocation. Regavim has said that the PA wants Khan al-Ahmar to remain at its current location as part of its overall plan to seize de facto control of Area C of the West Bank.
The state’s response has not differed since it was first issued in 2009, Regavim director-general Meir Deutsch said.
“Perhaps Netanyahu has confused ‘I don’t want’ with ‘I can’t,’” he said.