Reaction on the right to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s decision to suspend the evacuation and demolition of the illegal Bedouin outpost at Khan al-Ahmar has been swift and angry. MK Moti Yogev (Jewish Home) said the decision was “unprecedentedly irresponsible, a capitulation to foreign pressure. I call on the prime minister to dedicate no more than two weeks to negotiating with these people before a decision is made. International pressure is no reason to abandon the law and Israeli sovereignty.” MK Betzalel Smotrich (Jewish Home) said, “Tell me again the story about how we have a rightwing government. This is an angering and worrying decision.” Jewish Home chairperson Education Minister Naftali Bennett said that “Khan al-Ahmar will definitely be evacuated and demolished, and we will make sure this happens.”
The decision to postpone the delay was finalized over the weekend, Ha’aretz reported. Netanyahu suspended the evacuation and demolition indefinitely, saying that the state would examine alternatives before moving forward with the eviction and demolition. With that, the report said, Civil Authority officials who have been getting ready to evacuate and demolish the settlement have not been told that the demolition will be postponed indefinitely; in recent days they have continued to pave a path to the village that would enable heavy equipment to be used in the demolition to get to the site.
One of the key reasons for the decision, the Jerusalem Post said, was a statement last week by Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, who warned that Israel could be hauled into court if the demolition went through. ““I have been following with concern the planned eviction of the Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank. Evacuation by force now appears imminent, and with it the prospects for further escalation and violence,” he said in a statement. “I therefore feel compelled to remind all parties that the situation remains under preliminary examination by my office. I continue to keep a close eye on the developments on the ground and will not hesitate to take any appropriate action, within the confines of the independent and impartial exercise of my mandate under the Rome Statute, with full respect for the principle of complementarity.”
The Regavim rights group said that Netanyahu “for many years activated a policy to enforce penalties against unauthorized settlements in Yehudah and Shomron, but this is very selective. In Amona, Ofra, Beit El, Netiv Ha’avot, and other cases, the decision to evict and demolish was taken literally and swiftly, but when it comes to the Palestinian Authority’s flagship outpost which was set up specifically to seize control of an entire area that is supposed to be controlled by Israel, Netanyahu gets cold feet. This time the prime minister cannot blame the High Court. This is all his responsibility.”
Earlier this month, the High Court gave its final authorization for the demolition of the site. The government had given the Bedouin until October 1st to vacate the site willingly, or to face forced eviction. PA officials have been appealing to European leaders to lean on Israel to forgo the demolition.
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.
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.