Photo Credit: Courtesy of Regavim
The illegal shantytown of Khan al-Ahmar, March 2022.

Sources in Israel have learned that in recent discussions, Prime Minister Yair Lapid and the National Security Council have sided with the option of moving the illegal structures built at Khan Al-Ahmar only 100 meters away from the current location, which security officials consider a disaster due to the proximity to Highway 1 and the enlargement of the existing outpost.

In the discussion, Minister of Public Security Omer Barlev was quite indifferent, while Minister of Justice Gideon Saar opposed this alternative.

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As Israel is on the eve of yet another elections, it was decided to request another postponement from the High Court of Justice.

In the meantime, while Israel is hesitating, Khan al-Ahmar is expanding. 70 new buildings were added in the past two years, and 250 students attend the local school.

The residents of Khan al-Ahmar are demanding to be moved inside the Green Line, but Israeli officials have warned that granting residency to the Palestinian Authority residents would set a dangerous precedent.

US Senators visited Khan Al Ahmar and promised to promote a solution for the benefit of the residents, and foreign volunteers who are waiting for the decision on the removal of the outpost have promised that they will help to rebuild the houses.

In the meantime, the PA is forcing the residents to hold on to the place and plans to build a Bedouin village with permanent buildings.

The court’s decision regarding the eviction of Khan Al-Ahmar is expected to be made this Sunday. The state submitted a request to the High Court for another, fourth postponement of the response to the conditional order regarding the eviction of the Khan, arguing that the matter cannot be decided during an election period.

At the hearing that took place about a year ago, the state informed the court that significant progress had been made regarding the formulation of an agreed outline for the implementation of the demolition orders for the compound, but an additional period of time was required before it would be possible to act on the implementation of the orders and requested a six-month extension until the month of March. When the deadline arrived, the state asked for another postponement and the court approved the request, not without noting that “the day is near when we will not be able to accept not clarifying the petition and a clear decision is required.”

TPS visited Khan Al Ahmar last week and heard from the residents who fear that if they agree to evacuate, according to one of the proposals being considered in Israel, the PA will act against them. Residents of the illegal outpost told TPS that “the PA has made us hostages as part of the struggle it is waging against Israel for control of Mishor Adumim. If we agree to evacuate, it will take revenge on us.”

Yoel Marshak, a member of the Kibbutz Movement, has been acting for the past three years as a representative of the residents’ committee from the Jahalin tribe who live in Khan al-Ahmar, and he is working to promote a solution. In this framework, Marshak has been meeting with officials in Israel and the PA. According to him, there is a possibility of evacuating the buildings hundreds of meters to the west and the residents agree to it, but require Ramallah’s approval, and without approval from the PA, which “wants blood and fire,” the residents will not be able to accept such a move.

Local residents say that their lawyer has not met them for two years and all his arguments in court are dictated by Ramallah. The residents’ representative said that their lawyer’s salary is paid by the PA’s committee for the fight against the security fence and the settlements. A previous lawyer was fired because he was too independent in the eyes of Ramallah, they added.

Fearing the PA, the members of the Bedouin tribe have other intentions. The Jahalin tribe lived in the Arad Valley in the south and reached the Mishor Adumim in the 1950s, and now the tribal leaders are trying to take advantage of the situation to return to the area, away from the PA, and to receive the desired blue Israeli identity card, which will grant them at least resident status, like the residents of eastern Jerusalem, that will guarantee them freedom of movement, and most importantly, work in Israel and other rights.

Ismail Abu Dahuk, who works in a garage in the Mishor Adumim industrial area, told TPS that “I work for the Jews and soon if I have to leave Khan al-Ahmar, I want to be an Israeli and work in Israel and bring food to my children. If we leave here and agree to the evacuation, we will not have a future except in Israel.”

As part of his unofficial role, Marshak toured with Ministry of Defense personnel and is trying to promote the transfer of the Khan’s residents to the Arad Valley. There is water and electricity infrastructure in place in the desired area, but the fear of a political precedent cooling the enthusiasm in Israel for the process of eviction in exchange for residency.

Senior security officials confirmed that “this option was seriously considered, but it seems that the fear of precedent made it irrelevant.”

They added that due to the PA’s opposition to any arrangement, Israel gave up its intention to settle the Bedouin near Abu Dis, and investments of millions went down the drain. The valuable equipment was transferred to Beit El so that it would not be damaged.

In order to promote the possibility of returning to Israel, the Jahalin appealed to the Ra’am party. Last year, Knesset Member Saeed al-Kharumi visited the place and met with the residents who claim that he promised them to promote their return to the Negev. Since al- Khoromi’s death, the residents turned to Knesset Member Mansour Abbas and the village heads say that he promised them that he would help promote their return to Arad, but he disappeared a short time later.

Security officials in Israel oppose the idea of ​​transferring the Bedouins to Israel, a move that could set a politically significant precedent. Thousands of Bedouins live in the Mishor Adumim area, living in 130 different illegal concentrations and points.

Now they say in the Khan, “We fall between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which is working to keep us here on the road from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea Valley.” The people of the place do not even have permits to go to the hearing in court and on the other hand, the PA refuses to meet them and respond to the demands that would be favorable to them.

Referring to the intention of the evacuation, a Palestinian source says “the PA will refuse any move that is not achieved through it” and adds that “there is an intention to establish a settlement in which all the Bedouins in the area will be settled in permanent structures.”

A security source confirmed that this is known to Israel, as part of the Palestinian struggle for the E1 territories.

The Regavim movement, which is leading the petition to remove the Khan, says “it is impossible for Lapid and Gantz, who promote the rule of law, to disrespect the justice system and the public’s trust like this. There is no dispute that the illegal outpost must be destroyed as determined by the High Court, and every delay proves that it is not the rule of law that is important to the government, but their chair. The time has come long ago – to remove the disgrace and remove Khan al-Ahmar.”

In Khan al-Ahmar they are eagerly waiting for the court’s decision. Local residents said that hundreds of volunteers from foreign countries are waiting for the decision to be made in Israel and are ready to arrive immediately to help rebuild the houses.

The residents are in continuous contact with the representatives of the European Union who have expressed support for them, and last week eight senators, members of the Democratic Party, visited the place and promised the residents that they would work with the State of Israel so that it would provide the best solution for the Bedouins and not the one that would specifically serve Israel.

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Baruch reports on Arab affairs for TPS.
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