The evacuation of the illegal Bedouin settlement of Khan al-Ahmar is to be delayed – for the sixth time – after the High Court accepted the state’s argument that the settlement could not be evacuated at this time because a new government had yet to be formed. The state has repeatedly postponed following through on the evacuation and demolition of the settlement, after the government voted to do so earlier this year.
The Regavim rights organization sued the government to force it to follow through with the evacuation. Arguing that the time was not right for the evacuation, the state told the court that the evacuation should not take place because the new government has yet to be formed, and it “was not clear what that government’s policy will be on the matter.”
The High Court in September paved the way for demolition of Khan al-Ahmar, illegally built on state land adjacent to Maaleh 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.
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 Regavim. 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.”
Commenting on the decision, Yakhin Zak of Regavim said that “Khan al-Ahmar is not just an illegal outpost that has had demolition orders outstanding against it for years. It is a project of the forces attempting to illegally take over Area C, conducted by the Palestinian Authority and funded by Europe. It is thus a true test for governance in Israel and for equality before the law. After a decade of this war of attrition conducted by the Palestinian Authority, it is time for Israel to impose the law on this issue.”