Photo Credit: Hillel Maeir/TPS
A protest for the illegal Arab outpost of Khan al-Ahmar. July 4, 2018

The High Court of Justice announced Tuesday a postponement in the evacuation of the illegal Arab outpost of Khan Al-Ahmar, even though it previously ruled it would not grant such an extension.

Responding to a request filed by the government earlier this month, and after the High Court in July granted the government yet another extension for a month, it gave the government another six months to act on its order to remove Khan al-Ahmar, even though it previously stressed that it would not do so.

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The most recent round in the Khan al-Ahmar case is the sixth petition submitted by the Regavim Movement, which monitors and combats illegal Arab construction and land grabs, demanding the evacuation of the illegal squatters’ camp.

In 2018, the Israeli government gave a commitment to the High Court that Khan al Ahmar would be evacuated, but since that time the state has requested a number of extensions, citing a long list of excuses.

The head of the three-judge panel, Judge Noam Solberg, sharply criticized the conduct of the state, writing in the decision that “there is no doubt that the day is coming when we can no longer come to terms with the non-clarification of the petition and will require a clear decision. There comes a stage where attempts [to find a solution] becomes disgrace; we cannot accept this. We cannot sit idly by, doing nothing, facing [the government’s] dragging of its feet.”

Justice Alex Stein agreed with Judge Solberg and wrote that “the principle of legality, which we are commanded to implement and empower, does not allow the state to “sit on the fence” for many years and look at illegal structures without bindingly deciding between their regulation and demolition.”

The Regavim movement stated that procrastination is not a solution but part of the problem.

“Endless procrastination seeks to ignore reality and facts,” said Meir Deutsch, director of the Regavim movement. “Now the state is trying to postpone for the umpteenth time its commitment to evacuate Khan al-Ahmar.”

“Procrastination will not overcome the simple demand: the State of Israel must fight the Palestinian takeover of Judea and Samaria. Khan al-Ahmar was and still is a test case for the question of strategic breadth.”

After severely criticizing Benjamin Netanyahu for his inaction on the removal of the illegal Arab outpost of Khan al-Ahmar, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is seeking to further postpone the evacuation, adopting the same line of the Netanyahu government.

In all of its recent campaigns, Bennett’s Yemina Party explained that Netanyahu had to be replaced in order to properly fight the Palestinian Authority’s takeover of Area C in Judea and Samaria, to stop the loss of state land in the Negev to Bedouin squatters, to restore the rule of law to the Galilee and the Negev, and to evacuate the illegal outpost known as Khan al Ahmar.

Bennett’s coalition partners, including Ayelet Shaked, Zeev Elkin, Avigdor Liberman, and Yoaz Handel, were also very loud with their criticism of Netanyahu’s policy, but are doing exactly what he did, and for the same reason – a fear of a diplomatic clash with Europe.

The Khan al Ahmar saga, more than a decade long, has been heard in multiple High Court of Justice petitions submitted by Regavim.

In 2018, the Israeli government announced its intention to complete the evacuation and relocation of the illegal outpost, the flagship of the Palestinian Authority’s systematic program of territorial dominance in Area C, but has since repeatedly postponed the court-ordered action.

The Jahalin Bedouin, the residents of Kahn Al-Ahmar, 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. Khan al Ahmar overlooks the road that connects Jerusalem to the south of Israel in a strategic area.

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Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.