High Court Authorizes Demolition of Illegal Bedouin Encampment

YERUSHALAYIM -

The High Court on Wednesday paved the way for demolition of the Bedouin encampment Khan al-Ahmar, illegally built on state land adjacent to Maale Adumim. The court had previously in May given its permission to go ahead with the evacuation and demolition of the encampment, but froze the process after Bedouin and leftist groups petitioned against the demolition in July.

In its decision Wednesday, the court said that while it understood the concerns of petitioners against the demolition, “there is no doubt that the construction here was illegal, and there is no disputing this. Under these circumstances, we have no choice but to accept the state’s position and order the demolition of the structures.”

The Khan al-Ahmar case had been before the court for nine years, and the decision to demolish came in response to a petition by local community groups and the Regavim organization, which acts as a watchdog on illegal Arab building. Khan al-Ahmar is located right off Road 1, between Kfar Adumim and the Mishor Adumim industrial zone. Its residents were originally traditional Bedouin wanderers who settled in the area after the Six Day War. They had originally been seasonal residents of various areas of southern Israel, moving to different locations along with the seasons, and in the 1950s were moved further north by the IDF.

Many Bedouin now prefer permanent housing, and the state has developed a plan that would provide legal housing for the village’s residents, which they have turned down. However, the court said that the solution proposed by the state was “not so radical as to be called unreasonable,” although it does agree with the defendants that the plan “is not perfect.” Nevertheless, the solution is sufficient to justify enforcing the state’s rights to use the land for public purposes.

The demolition decision became a cause celebré among leftists and European governments. Last year, Lars Faaborg-Andersen, the EU’s ambassador to Israel, said “The practice of enforcement measures such as forced transfers, evictions, demolitions and confiscations of homes and humanitarian assets and the obstruction of delivery of humanitarian assistance are contrary to Israel’s obligations under international law.”

The fact that the encampment was located next to the highway was an important factor in its decision, the court said. “There is no likelihood of a retroactive permit process for these structures. The structures are located on land that is meant to be developed for the expansion of the road, in a plan that has been authorized and approved. Given that, it is likely that the land will not be used to house anyone in the future,” it said in its decision.

In a social media post, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said that he “congratulates High Court judges for their brave decision against the hypocritical choir of opponents including PA chief Mahmoud Abbas, the left, and the EU. No one is above the law.” In his own post, United Arab List head MK Aymen Odeh said that the decision “will prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state altogether, as well as destroying the possibility of peace.”