MK: Americans Asked Us Not to Demolish Illegal Bedouin Settlement

A general view shows the main part of the Palestinian Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar. (Reuters/Mohamad Torokman/File Photo)

The state has once again filed a request with the High Court that the evacuation of the illegal Bedouin settlement of Khan al-Ahmar be delayed yet again – for the seventh time. This time, the state is arguing that it cannot act to remove the settlement in the current political situation, and that the evacuation must wait until after the elections. The court is expected to accept the state’s arguments and allow the delay.

Meanwhile in an interview Tuesday, Likud MK Yoav Kisch explained the obvious reluctance of the state to follow through on the dismantling of Khan al-Ahmar. Speaking to the Knesset Channel, Kisch said that Israel preferred to wait until after the presentation of U.S. President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century” peace plan. “This is a very sensitive issue, as we all know, and the Americans have asked us to hold out on the matter until after their plan is presented,” Kisch said.

The Khan al-Ahmar case is back in court because of lawsuits by right-wing groups demanding that the state act in accordance with previous court decisions that authorized the removal of the settlement – something the state has avoided doing for over a year.

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 court last September paved the way for demolition of Khan al-Ahmar, illegally built on state land adjacent to Maale Adumim.

The court had previously in May 2018 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 of that year.

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 rights organization. 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.

The demolition decision became a cause célèbre 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.”

In his interview, Kisch admitted that the government had a problem when it dispatched Civil Administration officials to demolish illegally built homes in Jewish towns, while keeping hands off Khan al-Ahmar.

Despite the sensitivity of the situation and the American request, “I think it is important that we make clear to them how important this issue is for us. That we are not demolishing this particular illegal settlement sends a very problematic message. I think we need to resolve this with the Americans and move ahead to the solution,” he added.