Israel’s High Court of Justice on Wednesday granted the government an additional six months to present its plan to the court for the evacuation of Khan al-Ahmar, an illegal Bedouin outpost a few minutes’ drive from Jerusalem.

The ruling is the latest development in a legal battle that began in 2009, when Israeli NGO Regavim filed its first petition against what it called “the Palestinian Authority’s flagship outpost in the systematic takeover of Area C” of Judea and Samaria, the NGO said in a statement.

Regavim, which according to its website is a “public movement dedicated to the protection of Israel’s national lands and resources,” has since filed five more petitions. However, the state has continued to postpone the relocation of Khan al-Ahmar’s residents and the razing of the village.

Presiding judge Justice Noam Sohlberg harshly criticized the goverment’s inaction in his ruling on Wednesday.

“There is no doubt that the day is fast approaching when it will no longer be possible to accept the lack of clarity in this case, which requires a clear and decisive resolution—one way or the other,” wrote Sohlberg.

“Even if the various proposed solutions were sufficient cause to postpone the inevitable, it is not possible to stall indefinitely. Even attempts to reach a  consensual resolution must have limits,” he continued.

“At a certain point, these attempts become a source of contempt, and this we must not accept. Our job as judges is to bring clarity to the petitions that are brought before us; this is our task, and this is our duty. We cannot sit idly by and do nothing in the face of this continued procrastination. We intend to complete the hearing process in this case soon after the government files its reply and after we consider any further responses to that reply; either way, this case must be resolved,” he wrote.

Justice Alex Stein added that “the principle of legality, which we have been entrusted to carry out and to encourage, does not allow the state to ‘sit on the fence’ for years at a time and gaze at illegal structures without taking a definitive decision to either regulate or demolish them.”

Justice George Kra expressed reservations regarding his colleagues’ criticism, noting that “at this time I see no reason to tie the court’s hands and limit our options regarding the continued adjudication of this petition.”

Responding to the six-month extension, Regavim Director-General Meir Deutsch said, “The state is attempting, for the umpteenth time, to push off its commitment to evacuate Khan al-Ahmar … Procrastination won’t change the bottom line: The State of Israel must take action against  the ongoing Palestinian takeover of Judea and Samaria. Khan al-Ahmar has been, and continues to be, the test case for the larger strategic challenge.”

JNS

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