On October 20th, Israel decided to indefinitely delay the forced evacuation of the West Bank herding village of Khan al-Ahmar.
This was a result of a decision of the Israeli High Court of Justice which ruled that there was no legal barrier to demolish the village, but it preferred to see a negotiated solution.
On the same day, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s office said in response that he opposed the delay and that the decision was taken in spite of his “resolute opposition.”
On October 21st, Lieberman said that the delay was actually due to Israel’s Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit. He reportedly asked to delay the pending demolition for legal reasons. The Defense Minister spoke after the security cabinet affirmed the delay in hopes of finding a compromise with its residents and avoiding a forced evacuation, according to the Jerusalem Post. According to the outlet, Lieberman voted for the delay, despite speaking strongly against it on the previous day.
According to him, the cabinet has made the decision to demolish the village. “The moment the cabinet approves the evacuation of Khan al-Ahmar, the process is irreversible,” Liberman said.
He explained that Mandelblit had told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that it was legally important to make one more attempt to negotiate with the 180 residents of Khan al-Ahmar.
Following a meeting with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on October 21st, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the village will be soon “evacuated,” and that the postponement is for a “short, fixed period of time” and not indefinite.
“This is the decision of the court, this is our policy and it will be implemented,” Netanyahu was cited by Al Jazeera.
“I don’t intend to postpone it until further notice contrary to what has been reported, but [make it happen] within a short, fixed period of time. The duration we will give to evacuate it in consent will be decided by the cabinet.”
Israeli authorities set October 1st as the deadline for the residents to dismantle their homes and evacuate after the demolition was approved in September, under the pretext that it had been built without a permit.
However, Palestinians say that building permits are impossible to obtain, in contrast to the rapid expansion of Jewish-only Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law, as reported by Al Jazeera.
On October 17th, the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor warned that Israel’s planned “evacuation by force” of the village could constitute a war crime. As reported by Al Jazeera, Israel is a signatory of the Rome Statute of the ICC, but it has not ratified the agreement.
Earlier, on September 16th, the UN once more warned against the demolition of the village and that it would be in violation of international law. “I am concerned at the intention of the Israeli authorities to demolish the Bedouin village of Khan Al-Ahmar/Abu Al-Helu,” UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov said in a statement.
“Such actions are contrary to international law and could undermine the chances for the establishment of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state,” he further commented.
In the first half of September, the EU also condemned the demolition of the village, saying that it undermines the prospect of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. With a resolution, the EU demands compensation from Israeli government for aid funds invested in the West Bank Bedouin village in addition to demanding the cessation of the demolition.
In a joint statement, France, Kingdom of the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, Italy called for a cancellation of the demolition plans, following the Israeli High Court’s decision to reject the petitions by residents of the village on September 5th.
The forthcoming and seemingly inevitable demolition of the Khan al-Ahmar village and the forced evacuation of its residents would most likely lead to more Arab protests against Israeli conduct in the region. This will also trigger possible violence, because Tel Aviv’s strategy, reinforced by the US support of all its conduct, is to respond with force to any protest.
This would further the agenda of the hawks in the Israeli leadership pushing for a war in Gaza. Liberman has recently claimed that there can only be peace if Hamas is dealt a “crushing blow” beforehand.