US pushed to delay Khan al-Ahmar demolition

MK Yoav Kisch says delaying demolition of illegal Bedouin settlement sends 'problematic' message.

Hezki Baruch ,

Khan al-Ahmar
Khan al-Ahmar
Hillel Meir/ TPS

Likud MK Yoav Kisch on Tuesday morning said he believes United Right's Uri Ariel, who currently serves as Agriculture Minister, will be fired in spite of promises to leave him in his current position in exchange for his party not demanding an additional portfolio.

In an interview with the Knesset Channel, Kisch said, "There is a high chance that [United Right Chairman Rabbi Rafi] Peretz will remain Education Minister in the next Knesset - a higher chance than [former Education Minister Naftali] Bennett had." However, he added,"If the Likud receives 45 seats, the Education Ministry will remain with the Likud."

Kisch himself expects to be appointed Communications Minister "when the position becomes available."

"This process is delayed a bit, until we see what happens with [Public Security Minister Gilad] Erdan, who received an offer to replace [Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny] Danon," he explained.

Regarding the evacuation of Khan al-Ahmar, an illegal Arab settlement built with funds from European governments, Kisch said, "I understood that because of the transition period, the answer was that we want to wait until after the peace plan is presented. There's a lot of sensitivity right now in this area and the Americans asked that we not do anything on the subject until afterwards."

"I think it's still important to explain to them that for us this has enormous and inherent significance. It also sends a problematic message that we're not doing it, so I think it's important that we need to solve this issue with the Americans and advance the solution."

Earlier this week, the State requested that the Supreme Court extend the deadline for evacuating Khan al-Ahmar until December 16. Originally, the State had been required to respond by May 1 to the Regavim Movement's petition that the State fulfill the court's orders to demolish the illegal settlement.

On May 6, the court extended the deadline to June 17, and now the State is requesting an additional six-month extension and claiming that it cannot respond to the petition due to the upcoming elections. If granted the extension would delay the demolition not only until after September's elections, but also until after the Trump administration's "deal of the century" has been presented.

Regavim noted that the Israeli government, despite being a temporary government, continues to make important decisions and has another three months left before elections. In addition, Regavim noted, the demolition was originally slated for no later than June 2018 - a full year ago.

Director of activities at Regavim, Yachin Zik, noted, "Prime Minister [Binyamin] Netanyahu stood up a few months ago and promised that 'Khan al-Ahmar will be evacuated within the coming weeks.' We're not just talking about an illegal building that the State decided is 'strategically important to demolish,' but a test of the Israeli government's willingness to act against the Palestinian Authority's plans to take over open areas in Judea and Samaria."

First built in the 1990s, Khan al-Ahmar is now home to some 180 Bedouin squatters, who seized Israeli state land adjacent to the Israeli town of Kfar Adumim, east of Jerusalem.

Israeli courts have repeatedly upheld demolition orders issued against the illegal community, culminating in the Supreme Court’s final rejection of the residents’ claims in a ruling last year.

The United Nations, European Union, and International Criminal Court (ICC), on the other hand, have pressured Israel not to evacuate the illegal Bedouin settlement.

Last year, the Supreme Court ordered that Khan al-Ahmar be evacuated and demolished by no later than June 2018.