Israel's High Court Grants State Another Extension on Khan al-Ahmar Eviction

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The imam of Khan al-Ahmar prepares for prayers in the West Bank, last year.
The imam of Khan al-Ahmar prepares for prayers in the West Bank, last year.Credit: Emil Salman

The High Court of Justice granted on Wednesday the state's request for an extension for submitting its position on the contentious eviction of the West Bank Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar. Israel had asked for a two-month delay in light of ongoing talks between Israeli authorities and Palestinian residents.

The state requested the extension on Thursday before it finally submits its position on a 2019 petition by right-wing Israeli NGO Regavim asking the court to order a timetable for the eviction. The state proposed a deadline of September 14; the High Court ruled that they have until September 5, and no later.

Khan al-Ahmar has become an international symbol of the Israeli-Palestinian battle for control over Area C, the part of the West Bank assigned to full Israeli control by the Oslo Accords.

It is home to a few dozen families from the Jahalin Bedouin tribe, which originally lived in the Negev but was expelled to the West Bank in the 1950s. They live in shacks and tents that also shelter their sheep.

The village's buildings were erected without permits from the Civil Administration on land defined as state land, and the High Court of Justice has upheld the eviction.

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

The Friends of Jahalin organization said in response: “We hope the state will be wise enough to lay out a real proposal for a decent solution for members of the Jahalin tribe, who have been living there for decades after having been expelled once already from the Negev. They deserve nothing less that the neighboring Jewish communities.” The group urges the states to issue construction permits and ensure “equality of rights and opportunities.”

Meir Deutsch, the chairman of Regavim, said in response that "The High Court of Justice is also tired of the government's theater of the absurd. The Israeli government's helplessness in the face of criminal building in Khan al-Ahmar is a symbol of its powerlessness against the Palestinian Authority's strategic power grabs over open land in Judea and Samaria. We're glad to see that even the High Court justices have run out of patience regarding this failure of enforcement and its deep harm to the rule of law and the interests of the State of Israel."  

On Sunday, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said he intends to examine the diplomatic implications of evicting residents from Khan al-Ahmar.

In his notice to Cabinet Secretary Shalom Shlomo, Lapid argued the evacuation could harm Israel’s diplomatic relations, potentially signaling a government decision to leave Khan al-Ahmar’s residents there. This would contradict campaign promises made by members of some right-wing parties currently part of the ruling coalition.

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