Cabinet OKs Netanyahu's Proposal to Postpone Khan al-Ahmar Evacuation Until Negotiations Exhausted

Netanyahu says the postponement of evacuation is for a short time: 'I believe it will be with consent' ■ Villagers' attorney says there are discussions of constructing an alternative site, hundreds of meters away from village

Palestinian schoolgirls make their way to their school in the West Bank Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, September 13, 2018.
\ MUSSA ISSA QAWASMA/ REUTERS

Israel's security cabinet approved on Sunday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's proposal to postpone the evacuation of the West Bank village of Khan al-Ahmar in order to exhaust negotiations with the village residents. 

Earlier on Sunday, Netanyahu said that the cabinet will be setting the timetable for negotiations. "Khan al-Ahmar will be evacuated, it's a court ruling, that's our policy and it will be done," Netanyahu said, following massive pressure from his ministers Sunday. 

"The period of time to try to evacuate [the village] with [the residents'] agreement will be determined by the cabinet," he added. "I will convene it today, we will set a date. It will be short, and I believe it will be with consent."

Netanyahu gestures as he speaks to US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin prior to their meeting at his Jerusalem office on October 21, 2018
AFP

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Netanyahu's comments, made at a press conference alongside U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, come a day after sources in Netanyahu's office told Haaretz that the evacuation of Khan al-Ahmar will be delayed until further notice.

The government is holding off on forced evacuation of the West Bank Bedouin village in order to exhaust a proposal for voluntary evacuation.

Netanyahu also said that the village residents are discussing a proposal for an evacuation to a new location, hundreds of meters away.

The attorney for the village residents confirmed this with Haaretz, saying that the proposal "is not far from the outline proposed by the villagers at the High Court of Justice. The plan included a movement of a few hundred meters, in which the village would move away from Highway 1. However, when the proposal was raised in the High Court, the state rejected it."

>> Explained: Everything You Need to Know About the West Bank Bedouin Village at the Eye of a Diplomatic Storm

Security forces have said in recent days that they are ready to evacuate the village and are waiting for instructions to do so.

However, sources told Haaretz in the past week and Saturday evening, that the order is being delayed without explanation.

The police and the Civil Administration didn't receive orders to leave the area, and in recent days, access roads to heavy vehicles have been re-paved.

Last week, Haaretz learned that Jerusalem was aware of unusual diplomatic statements by both the European Union and the chief prosecutor of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, and estimated that the evacuation would take place after the UN security council meeting to take place on Thursday. 

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.