High Court grants further delay to shave West Bank Bedouin village
The High Court of Justice on Monday granted the government a new six-month delay in plans to demolish Khan al-Ahmar, a Bedouin village in the West Bank that Israel says was built illegally, the latest in a series of postponements which prevented its withdrawal for years.
The three-judge panel said it was convinced by the government’s claim, made earlier this month, that significant progress had been made towards a plan to demolish the village and move its residents to another place. The state presented a confidential document to the court containing details of the plan.
Presiding Judge Noam Sohlberg said it was expected that at the end of the next six months “a clear decision will be presented to us, having exhausted all possibilities”.
Last year, the right-wing pro-colonization group Regavim went to court, asking it to force the government to carry out the decision, approved three years ago, to wipe out the village.
Critics of the state’s handling of the case say the demolition has been repeatedly postponed to avoid an international incident, with the village gaining public support from human rights activists, pro-Palestinian groups and the ‘European Union.
The government now has until March 6, 2022 to resolve the matter.
Nonetheless, the court criticized the government for the prolonged delay in concluding the Khan al-Ahmar case and its continued demands for more time.
Bedouin rights group The Friends of Jahalin said the court should have dismissed the petition.
“It is time to find a fair and agreed solution,” the group said in a statement. “A solution for the good of the Bedouin, but no less for the good of Israeli society. “
In 2018, the Supreme Court approved the demolition of the village, located not far from Ma’ale Adumim and believed to be home to less than 200 Bedouin residents. Since 2018, the government led by then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for a series of demolition delays, the last of which came in November 2020 in response to the Regavim petition.
Then, in July, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid asked the attorney general and cabinet secretary for more time, saying the new government, installed a month earlier, needed more time to study the matter.
In the past, several right-wing parties in the current coalition – including Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina and Justice Minister Gideon Saar’s New Hope – have criticized Netanyahu for his inability to carry out the demolition.
The state says the structures, mostly shacks and makeshift tents, were built without a permit and pose a threat to villagers due to their proximity to a highway.
But the villagers – who have lived at the site, then controlled by Jordan, since the 1950s, after the state evicted them from their homes in the Negev – say they had little choice but to building without Israeli building permits, as such permits are hardly ever issued to Palestinians for building in parts of the West Bank, such as Khan Al-Ahmar, where Israel has full control over civil affairs.
Once the village is demolished, residents are expected to be relocated several kilometers to the east, near the Palestinian town of Abu Dis. The relocation site has been connected to water, electricity and sewers, and has a school to replace the current Italian-funded institution, which was built from tires covered in mud and has become a symbol for the village.