Photo Credit: Hillel Maeir/TPS
Khan Al-Ahmar. April 18, 2019

Inhabitants of Khan al-Ahmar, an illegal Bedouin outpost located to the east of Jerusalem along the corridor that heads down to the Jordan River Valley and the Dead Sea, are still in the dark about any plans to relocate them. “At the moment we are all preparing for the rain and wind storm and we have not yet received any information about the evacuation agreement,” some of the residents there have told TPS.

This is just the latest development in the ongoing saga over the future of the outpost. On Tuesday it was reported that an agreement had been reached for their resettlement nearby and the people of the outpost said that no one had even bothered to tell them about it.

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The residents also say that they would prefer to move down to the Negev over living anywhere within the areas of the Palestinian Authority. They say that the PA is working to block any settlement of their predicament as it prefers to use them as a political pawn, establishing expanded Arab settlements in the region between Jerusalem and the border with Jordan to keep it out of Israeli control.

And they are not happy with how the PA has been taking advantage of their plight to further its own political agenda.

Residents of Khan al-Ahmar also tell TPS that the Palestinian Authority has, in recent years, turned them into soldiers out of necessity. “The Palestinian Authority considers us soldiers to defend the E1 areas and will not give up the outpost,” explained one of the family heads. The E-1 area is a designation given to the lands located just to the northeast of Jerusalem.

And a Fatah official in Ramallah has told TPS adamantly that, “there will be no agreement without the approval of the PA.”

Tuesday evening it was reported that the government of Israel has decided to move the Bedouin outpost, which is located precariously close to the main highway and was never granted government approval to begin with, to a new location just 300 meters (1,000 feet) away.

The outpost is actually just a collection of small temporary structures that the Bedouin put together, as is the case with many a Bedouin settlement and has few residents.

There have been plans for several years now to relocate the illegal outpost. The matter has been taken up by Israel’s High Court which is expected to issue a ruling in March, after having granted a number of delays to Israeli governments so that they could try and come up with a compromise solution.

The Jahalin Bedouin are the residents of Kahn Al-Ahmar. They are an offshoot of a larger tribe based in southern Israel. After a blood feud that occurred within the tribe in the 1970s, some of the families were forced out and migrated north, arriving and settling in their present location after the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The location of the illegal structures is hazardous due to its proximity to Highway 1, a major transportation artery.

Representatives of the families living in the outpost told TPS several months ago that they had talked to MK Mansour Abbas – leader of the Arab Ra’am Party – and kept in touch with him on an ongoing basis, and that he said that he had decided to work to regulate their status in Israel and grant residency.

Now the Jahalin are concerned about the latest reports and do not hide their desire for full citizenship that will take them out under the authority of the Palestinian Authority.

“Only two solutions are acceptable for the residents of Khan, to stay in the place without order or to return to the Arad Valley,” say members of the Abu Dahuk family who live there.

The Jahalin people hoped that Mansour Abbas’ involvement would give them “new immigrant” status in Israel. The young Bedouin want to secure their future away from the PA and live in Israel and even serve in the police as Israeli Bedouin do. Youth of the Jahalin tribe expressed to TPS their concern that they would have to live there and especially if the Khan families, 70 members of the Abu Dahuk family, accept an agreement with Israel.

Ever since a petition was filed before Israel’s High Court in 2008 against the illegal construction in the compound, the Bedouin have clung to the support of the PA and the Italian government, which has taken care of moving residents from tents to small permanent buildings, installed solar panels and water tanks and more. A “school” built of tires and panels was also constructed for the benefit of the children.

But for the PA this is more about making the ramshackle outpost into more of a permanent place in at least appearance so as to make claims to the lands in the area, say the residents.

Israeli authorities issued demolition orders for Khan al-Ahmar as early as 2009, but opposition to the orders was led by the PA because it understood the strategic importance of the area known as Area E1.

It was recently reported that the Palestinian Authority intends to settle all 130 Bedouin families in encampments in the Ma’ale Adumim and Kedar areas.

“Let’s not play games and put everything on the table,” a Fatah activist told TPS a few months ago. “The Palestinian Authority wants to prevent any arrangement that will allow Israel to gather all the Bedouin in one compound because it will allow Israeli construction in E1 areas, but an arrangement that brings Arabs back to Israel will be acceptable to the authority and not a local arrangement with families or direct contact with Israel.”

That being the case, the PA would likely accept the resettlement of the Bedouin in the Negev.

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Baruch reports on Arab affairs for TPS.