(October 21, 2018 / JNS) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced the indefinite postponement of the Bedouin encampment of Khan al-Ahmar after a very public campaign by residents and leftist groups drew the attention of the international community.
According to the Prime Minister’s Office, the delay is to allow for more time to talk with the community and consider alternative proposals, but some reports indicate that it is due to an offer from Khan al-Ahmar residents to relocate.
Khan al-Ahmar was erected illegally in the 1990s on land belonging to the Israeli town of Kfar Adumim, and is occupied by some 170 Bedouins who have expanded the infrastructure with the help of donations from foreign governments and pro-Palestinian groups.
Israel’s Supreme Court ordered that the encampment be evacuated by Oct. 1 and demolished. Although the deadline has already passed—and following a rejection of final appeal by the Supreme Court—police and Israel Defense Forces have been preparing to destroy the outpost in the coming days, preparing a relocation site with all the basic infrastructure, including a new school.
International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said last week that Israel would be guilty of “war crimes” if it engaged in “extensive destruction of property without military necessity and population transfers in an occupied territory.”
He warned that he would “not hesitate to take any appropriate action within the framework of my authority according to the Rome Statue.”
The statements were made amid a multi-pronged campaign by pro-Palestinian groups to draw international ire at Israel.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman blasted Netanyahu’s decision, saying it was made despite the ministry’s “resolute opposition.”
The Israeli NGO Regavim, which fights illegal Arab and Bedouin building in Israeli courts, and originally brought the case against Khan al-Amar, called on Netanyahu to “come to his senses soon.”
Education Minister Naftali Bennett decried the perceived caving to international pressure, saying, “in a state which abides by the rule of law, the law is enforced even if there is opposition or threats from the international community.”
However, some reports indicate that Khan al-Ahmar’s attorney made an offer to the government that the residents would voluntarily relocate to land belonging to a nearby Arab town.