State asks court for month delay on Khan al-Ahmar due to Ukraine crisis

The right-wing NGO Regavim has battled for the last 12-years to force the state to forcibly evacuate the small illegal Bedouin herding village, which is perched just below the settlement Kfar Adumim.

 View of the Bedouin village Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank on March 21, 2021. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
View of the Bedouin village Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank on March 21, 2021.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The state asked the High Court of Justice to grant it a month’s delay in responding to the Khan al-Ahmar petition due to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s efforts to mediate between Russia and Ukraine.

“Considering the current circumstances in the world political arena, including the prime minister’s involvement in the military crisis in Europe״ and to allow him to properly focus on the petition the defendants are to submit their response by April 7.

The state had initially been slated to respond to a petition by the right-wing group Regavim on Sunday, but had asked the court for a two-day delay.

Regavim has battled for the last 12 years to force the state to forcibly evacuate the small illegal Bedouin herding village of Khan al-Ahmar, which is perched on the edge of Route 1 just below the West Bank’s Kfar Adumim settlement.

 Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at a memorial ceremony for former prime minister Menahem Begin, in Jerusalem, March 7, 2022. (credit: NOAM REVKIN FENTON/FLASH90) Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at a memorial ceremony for former prime minister Menahem Begin, in Jerusalem, March 7, 2022. (credit: NOAM REVKIN FENTON/FLASH90)

In 2018, the High Court of Justice had ruled that the IDF could demolish the modular structures that house the 180-member community, but did not insist that it must do so.

The international community had pressured Israel not to destroy the community. Former International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda had warned at the time that the forced relocation of Khan al-Ahmar could be a war crime.

In 2019, Regavim petitioned the court to force the IDF to evacuate the village. Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu had promised to do so, but never fulfilled that pledge.

Bennett, who heads the right-wing Yamina Party, had also pledged to relocate Khan al-Ahmar, but his coalition is divided on the issue. The state’s response to the court would mark the first time that Bennett has publicly weighed in on the matter since taking office last year.

Regavim fears that the state plans to tell the court it wants to symbolically move the community some 300 meters (just under 1,000 feet) away to the opposite side of Route 1.

The Khan al-Ahmar community, members of the Abu Dahuk clan, wants to remain at its current location.

Israel expelled the Abu Dahuk clan from the Negev to the West Bank in the 1950s. A few members of the clan arrived in the area of Khan al-Ahmar in the 1970s.