Israel Refuses to Negotiate With Khan al-Ahmar's Lawyer Because He's Employed by Abbas

Defense Minister Lieberman won't speak with Tawfiq Jabarin, who represents the Bedouin community facing demolition, because he is an employee of the Palestinian Authority

Palestinian Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, in the occupied West Bank October 22, 2018.
MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/Reuters

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has informed the residents of Khan al-Ahmar that the state will not negotiate with their current legal team, led by Tawfiq Jabarin, because he is employed by the Palestinian Authority.

As first reported by Army Radio, Lieberman’s office confirmed that the Civil Administration informed Jabarin it would not negotiate with him until the residents presented a power of attorney appointing him to do so. This means that a week after the decision was made to postpone the evacuation in order to negotiate, talks have yet to begin.

>> ICC prosecutor warns Israeli demolition of Bedouin village could be war crime ■ Israeli soldier hurled rocks at Haaretz staff documenting site for Khan al-Ahmar evacuees

Last week, it was reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had ordered to postpone the evacuation of Khan al-Ahmar, a Bedouin community in the West Bank facing demolition by Israeli authorities. Netanyahu postponed the evacuation in order to give talks a chance, in hopes that they could lead to voluntary evacuation.

The Civil Administration then approached the inhabitants, who referred the officials to their attorney, Jabarin. But the Defense Ministry then declined to conduct negotiations with Jabarin.

Jabarin is employed by the PA, in contrast to the residents’ previous legal team. The defense minister’s office said: “After the cabinet decision, the Defense Ministry, through the Civil Administration, approached the leaders of Khan al-Ahmar with a proposal to start negotiations leading to immediate voluntary evacuation from the area. But they refused to conduct direct negotiations and referred the representatives to their attorney, who was appointed by the Palestinian Authority. The Defense Ministry made clear to the residents that it would not conduct negotiations with the PA over territory under Israeli control, but only with a representative or lawyer with their signed power of attorney."

In September, the High Court of Justice denied a petition filed by the residents of Khan al-Ahmar and gave the state the green light to evacuate the entire village.

The village had been built on state-owned land and its houses were constructed without permits.

Justices Hanan Melcer, Yitzhak Amit and Anat Baron said the main issue in the case was not whether the eviction could be carried out, but where the residents would be relocated.

The Bedouin village is close to Route 1 in the area of Kfar Adumim. It is home to a few dozen families from the Jahalin tribe, which was expelled from its home in the Negev to the West Bank in the 1950s.