Israel Asks for Extension to Present Plan for Khan al-Ahmar Eviction

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The village of Khan al-Ahmar, West Bank, July 12, 2018.
The village of Khan al-Ahmar, West Bank, July 12, 2018.Credit: Maya Ben Nissan

Israel asked the Supreme Court on Sunday for a six-month extension of the deadline for presenting its position on evicting the residents of the West Bank Palestinian village of Khan al-Ahmar.

The state said that there had been "significant progress" in coming up with a plan to evict the village that would be acceptable to all parties.

The state said in a statement that it wishes to show a classified document relating to the issue to the justices hearing the petition against the evictions, and that the considerations that previously prevented the evictions "are still relevant."   

In July, the Supreme Court granted the state a six-week extension to submit an updated opinion on the issue, and made clear that an additional extension will not be granted. Meanwhile, the state is conducting negotiations with the village's residents. The Foreign Ministry stated Sunday that the decision to request an extension was reached "based on work done across agencies which includes the diplomatic opinion of the Foreign Ministry."

A resident rides through the village of Khan al-Ahmar, West Bank, in 2020.Credit: Emil Salman

About a month and a half ago, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced that he intends to reassess the eviction because of the change in Israel's government. He added that the eviction could hurt Israel's international standing. According to Lapid, although the Supreme Court approved the eviction in 2018, it hasn't followed through with it "because of various diplomatic considerations" of previous governments. He added that "the evacuation of the area brings with it some very serious challenges, both from a domestic and an international perspective, and may have many political consequences."

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.

The village is adjacent to a major Israeli highway, Route 1, and next to the settlement Kfar Adumim. 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.

Senior coalition members have repeatedly demanded the evacuation of the village over the past several years, and criticized former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for not doing so.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked opposed the cabinet's decision in 2018 to postpone the evacuation and Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar kicked off his campaign for Likud chairman in 2019 there. Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman toured the village and called for an eviction as well. Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz have called to avoid an eviction and instead sign a deal with the residents, as was done in the case of the West Bank outpost of Evyatar.

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