Israel Floats Plan to Relocate West Bank Bedouin Communities to Nearby Site

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The village of Khan al-Ahmar.
The village of Khan al-Ahmar.Credit: Maya Ben Nissan

Israeli authorities have announced plans to move several West Bank Bedouin Jahalin communities including Khan al-Ahmar over the past few weeks, with the proposed relocation previously sparking international outrage over several attempts to demolish Bedouin communities.

In the plan propsed by representatives of the Civil Administration in the West Bank, the communities would be moved to the other side of the road, as reported first in Yedioth Ahronoth on Monday.

The villages and the authorities are yet to sign anything and have not reached any concrete agreement, and the Bedouin residents Haaretz spoke with said they are skeptical concerning the implementation of such an alternative. Many of them have not yet formulated an opinion on the matter and discussions are still in preliminary stages, they told Haaretz.

The residents of Khan al-Ahmar did not meet with the Civil Administration representatives, but two other communities of Jahalin Bedouin did attend an initial meeting. As part of the meetings, the officials presented a map with an area on the other side of the road where the authority is weighing moving these communities to. According to attorney Shlomo Lecker, who attended one of the meetings, it was said that they will not demolish the structures in the new area, but it was not said that a new master plan for the relocated village would be approved there.

The plan concerns the Khan al-Ahmar community, but also another three communities of the Jahalin Bedouin in the area, one of which is already located on the other side of the road.

Khan al-Ahmar, home to about 180 Bedouins from the Jahalin tribe, in the occupied West Bank, May 2020. Credit: Emil Salman

Khan al-Ahmar is situated close to the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, and is home to dozens of Bedouin families from the Jahalin tribe who were expelled from the Negev following Israel’s inception in 1948. The state also said it would not demolish Khan al-Ahmar in the next four months due to the coronavirus pandemic and in order to provide time to develop “an agreeable plan” to relocate the village’s Palestinian residents.

The discussions about the new proposal come concerning an update Israel provided to the High Court of Justice in November 2020, according to which the state would try to reach an agreement with the residents of Khan al-Ahmar over a framework for their relocation.

The state’s announcement was provided as part of a preliminary response in a petition to the High Court submitted in 2019 by the right-wing nonprofit Regavim, which asked the court to order the government to set a timetable for evacuating the village.

In 2018, the Israeli High Court of Justice cleared the way for the demolition of the village, with its residents garnering international support, including from the International Criminal Court. ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda then said that evicting the village may constitute a war crime and that she would not hesitate to take action if needed.

The Friends of Jahalin organization said that “after decades of neglect of the Bedouins and a lack of minimal rights to for subsistence, the country is finally trying to reach a just solution, which will arrange the Bedouin settlement in the Judean Desert, including Khan al-Ahmar.

“It would be appropriate for the residents to have a sustainable solution for normal life, no less than the nearby Jewish settlement, which was established after Khan al-Ahmar was settled at the site. A solution of peace is a joint interest of all the country’s citizens.”

Meir Deutsch, Regavim’s director general said in response to the developments: “Khan al-Ahmar connstitutes the flagship project of the Palestinian Authority on the land of Judea and Samaria, located in a critical area that the Palestinian Authority is trying to gain territorial control between Bethlehem, Jericho and Ramallah.”

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