High Court criticizes government request to delay demolishing West Bank hamlet

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

View of the Bedouin village Khan al-Ahmar, in the West Bank on January 23, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
View of the Bedouin village Khan al-Ahmar, in the West Bank on January 23, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The High Court of Justice issues a sharp criticism of the government today for requesting yet another delay in the court’s order to evacuate the illegal Khan al-Ahmar Bedouin encampment in the West Bank.

The government last week requested a four-month delay while it evaluates how it will carry out the evacuation and demolition in light of strong international pressure against such steps, but the right-wing Regavim organization requested the court issue a final order instructing the state to evacuate the dwelling since the court’s interim order has been pending since 2018.

High Court Justice Noam Sohlberg in his decision accuses the government of ongoing foot-dragging over the issue, and of contradicting itself by saying it is committed to removing the Bedouin village but repeatedly failing to do so.

Sohlberg writes that the state’s behavior apparently demonstrates that “the existing situation is comfortable for it,” whereby “once every few months it files a request for an extension which the petitioner opposes and the court accedes to through gritted teeth, and the world carries on as normal; deciding not to decide.”

The High Court of Justice says it understands that the government has only just taken office but that it cannot agree to the government’s request for a four-month extension “when experience teaches us that one postponement leads to another and there is never a substantive answer.”

Sohlberg sets a hearing for Regavim’s demand for a final order for the evacuation of Khan al-Ahmar for May 1, and for the state to respond to the request by April 2. He also awards NIS 20,000 ($5,700) in costs to Regavim, a clear sign of judicial displeasure.

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