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Israel’s Supreme Court holds hearing on Khan al-Ahmar

At the end of the closed-door session, the justices announced that a ruling regarding the illegal Arab settlement would be forthcoming.

The illegal Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, near Ma'ale Adumim, Dec. 10, 2019. Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash90.
The illegal Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, near Ma'ale Adumim, Dec. 10, 2019. Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash90.

Israel’s Supreme Court held a hearing Monday regarding Khan al-Ahmar, pressing the government to explain why it hasn’t implemented the court’s order to demolish the illegal Bedouin outpost located in a sensitive area in Judea and adjacent to a major highway.

“When will the stage come when you can no longer say that it is necessary to evacuate because of the rule of law, ‘but not at the present time,'” Supreme Court Justice Noam Sohlberg asked the state’s representatives.

“In 2009, there were three buildings in Khan al-Ahmar. If the state had not waited with the evacuation, we would not have reached the situation that exists today,” he added.

Justice Alex Stein said, “The ruling states that an order must be implemented within a reasonable period of time. Are indefinite delays for ‘security and political considerations’ a ‘reasonable period of time?’ ”

Stein also asked how the state expects the court to reject a petition demanding the execution of demolition orders when it is unwilling to give any date for eviction, according to a summary of the proceedings released by the petitioner, Regavim, an NGO focused on land issues.

The state’s representatives said that the state had no objection to the implementation of the orders but demanded that it be given full discretion as to the timing and manner in which they are to be implemented, given the political and security considerations involved, according to Regavim’s summary.

National Security Council head Tzachi Hanegbi was present at the hearing and asked that the state be allowed to present its arguments behind closed doors.

Foreign influence?

Regavim agreed to the closed-door hearing but requested that the court address the public’s right to know if implementation was being delayed for political, diplomatic or security reasons.

“If the state is unwilling to uphold the law due to the involvement of foreign countries, the Israeli public has a right to know,” Regavim’s lawyers said.

Attorney Avi Segal, who represented Regavim, argued: “Even though it is in principle true that the court should not interfere in political issues, in the case where the state has been refusing to enforce the law for 15 years and due to this situation the Palestinian Authority and the residents of the compound continue to take over the area, there is no choice but that the court will put an end to the saga and set a reasonable timetable for the state to enforce the law.”

At the end of the closed-door hearing, the justices announced that a verdict or decision would be sent to the parties.

Monday’s hearing was another stage for the sixth petition against the Palestinian Authority outpost of Khan al-Ahmar.

The legal battle over Khan al-Ahmar began in 2009, when 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 encampment is built on state land located within the city limits of Ma’ale Adumim, east of Jerusalem.

While the Supreme Court has rejected the appeal of residents of the outpost and upheld lower courts’ rulings ordering Khan al-Ahmar evacuated, Israeli governments, including those led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have asked for and received deferments.

The last deadline for the government to present a detailed plan for the evacuation was Feb. 1. The government asked for and received a four-month extension.

It was the ninth time the state had requested a postponement.

At the time, lawmaker Danny Danon, chairman of World Likud and former ambassador to the U.N., said:

“In attempting to avoid the immediate eviction of Khan al-Ahmar, the government’s response to the Supreme Court sets a dangerous precedent and gives the Palestinian Authority free rein to construct additional illegal outposts. This government was elected to change the floundering policies of the previous government rather than to continue with their oversights. It is not too late to act and evict Khan al-Ahmar.”

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