Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Sunday evening addressed the issue of the illegal Bedouin outpost of Khan al-Ahmar and stressed that the outpost would be evacuated, but also added it was legitimate to delay the evacuation in order to try to reach an agreement on a voluntary evacuation.
Liberman spoke at a conference of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies conference held at the Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem.
"The moment the cabinet approved the evacuation of Khan al-Ahmar, the process is irreversible. But there are a few more layers: If the Prime Minister and the Attorney General come and say, 'Let's try to exhaust one more attempt to negotiate, a voluntary evacuation, this is legally important. This is another attempt to exhaust the negotiations,' I do not see this as a problem," he explained.
"I also think that a united front and unity are very important. I do not think I should be constantly against the Prime Minister. Sometimes you have to be flexible, you do not have to turn everything into an internal struggle, a struggle within your own camp just to earn a few more votes,” continued Liberman.
"Therefore, I think that the decision was correct in view of the Attorney General's request to try to exhaust another attempt at voluntary evacuation. However, once the cabinet decided that Khan al-Ahmar will be evacuated, this is an irreversible procedure."
Liberman mentioned the history of the Bedouin outpost and implicitly criticized his predecessors, saying, "The invasion of Khan al-Ahmar started in 1974, at the time there was one tent. By 1976 there were already five tents. That was two years before I moved to Israel, I immigrated to Israel in 1978. It grew and today there are 150 people there.”
"The question is, why did they not deal with it until I entered the Defense Ministry? Nobody bothered with it, including those who are shouting and talking today. Until two days ago, they had no idea that there was a process there. I have been dealing with this issue since the day I took office as Defense Minister and we have gone through the Supreme Court and the legal advisors. The day before yesterday it was ready to be carried out, then they asked to put it off and since then it has made headlines. Until the day before yesterday, no Israeli politician ever raised this issue and did not even know about it,” said Liberman.
Earlier on Sunday, the security cabinet voted to approve Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s proposal that the planned demolition of an illegal Bedouin encampment east of Jerusalem be delayed for several weeks.
The illegal community of Khan al-Ahmar, first established in the 1990s, is home to between 170 and 180 Bedouin who settled on a strip of land adjacent to the Israeli town of Kfar Adumim, east of Jerusalem.
Last week, the ICC chief prosecutor warned Israel that the demolition could be construed as a war crime.
On Saturday, sources in the Prime Minister’s Office said that the government is holding off on demolishing Khan al-Ahmar in order to “exhaust negotiations and proposals received from various sources, including some in the past few days.”