For 10 years, the illegal Bedouin outpost of Khan al-Ahmar has been undermining Israel’s rule of law, making a mockery of Israeli sovereignty, enabling the Palestinian Authority to carry out the Fayyad Plan for the establishment of a de facto state on Israeli-controlled sections of Judea and Samaria and galvanizing a coalition of anti-Israel NGOs and foreign interests. Now, Khan al-Ahmar has become an instrument for the evisceration of High Court of Justice rulings and the erosion of the very foundations of Israeli democracy.
On Monday evening, the State Attorney submitted a request to the court on behalf of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, asking to delay a hearing on a petition submitted by Israeli NGO Regavim against the government’s failure to evacuate Khan al-Ahmar. Should the court grant this request, the hearing, scheduled for early December 2019, would be postponed until March 2020.
Khan al-Ahmar is one of more than 170 illegal outposts created by the P.A. and funded by the European Union for the sole purpose of establishing a corridor of P.A.-controlled territory disconnecting Jerusalem from the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea. These outposts are populated by the most vulnerable, disadvantaged and easily manipulated Bedouin families, stateless pawns in the P.A.’s power play, and follow a very simple, very predictable pattern of development.
First, the P.A. places water tankers at strategic points: along major Israeli highways, on land belonging to or abutting existing Jewish communities, or along lines that create territorial contiguity between major Arab population clusters in Areas A and B of Judea and Samaria. Knowing that Bedouin require little more than a steady supply of water to congregate and remain in any particular spot in this arid region, the P.A. thus attracts the tribes to strategic locations, even when those locations pose serious hazards to the health and livelihood of the Bedouin.
The next step is the construction of a school. This, too, attracts population—and makes for devastating publicity if Israel’s Civil Administration knocks it down. From this point, the battle of narratives begins. The “village” quickly rises up, constructed almost entirely of prefab housing units bearing the symbol of the European Union. It is given a name and equipped with a fictitious history. An army of internationally financed “do-gooders” takes up the cause of the unfortunate Bedouin who are “threatened” with relocation by the Israeli authorities—to new, modern neighborhoods on Israeli state-owned land, along with cash payouts and other forms of compensation.
The P.A., the European Union and a host of “humanitarian aid” groups take to the High Court of Justice to block any and all compromise solutions, forcing the helpless Bedouin to remain in unbearable conditions in the illegal outposts, in the service of the P.A.’s geopolitical machinations.
More than a decade ago, Regavim began monitoring, mapping, reporting on and petitioning against Khan al-Ahmar and its sister outposts. It took years to force the Israeli government to take notice of the strategic nature of these seemingly innocuous Bedouin squatters camps, and even more years to convince the government to demand that the European Union stop funding this illegal activity.
After six rounds of Supreme Court petitions, each of which resulted in clearly worded decisions regarding the illegality of Khan al-Ahmar and the necessity to relocate the Bedouin families living there, the only thing standing in the way is the Israeli government. Regavim strenuously objects to the delay of the hearing on the government’s inaction.
“This is the sixth petition we have submitted in the matter of Khan al-Ahmar,” said Meir Deutsch, director general of Regavim. “The State of Israel should have cleared the encampment as far back as 2009, when the Supreme Court handed down its first decision on the matter. We believe that further procrastination eviscerates the ‘final’ judgment handed down by the High Court after the fourth round of hearings. The government’s behavior in this matter is an affront to the stature of the court and harms the national interest.”
One year ago, Netanyahu publicly declared that Khan al-Ahmar would be evacuated in a matter of days. Since then, every passing day is one more day of shame for the rule of law in Israel.
Naomi Kahn is director of the International Division of Regavim, a research-based think tank and lobbying group dedicated to preserving Israel’s resources and sovereignty.