KHAN al-AHMAR, Judea – Knesset members in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's own Likud Party are pushing the government to evacuate a Palestinian-Bedouin settlement from Israeli-controlled territory in Judea (part of the West Bank). The move is seen as a test case with international implications.
Israel's Supreme Court approved the evacuation and demolition of the Khan al-Ahmar settlement in 2018. Although successive Israeli governments took no action, Netanyahu is now being challenged to do so.
Israel's Former U.N. Ambassador, Danny Danon, is one Likud member who supports the action. "We are here today to send a very clear message: we are here because this is our land. When it comes to illegal building in Judea and Samaria, you cannot have double standards," Danon said. "We saw what happened last Friday when the authorities evacuated a Jewish community that was built illegally."
Khan al-Ahmar is one of the 80 settlements in the 4.6 square mile area called E-1, built along Israel's main highway between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. Israel says they're illegal because they're built by Palestinians with European money on Israeli land.
Another Likud Knesset member, Yuli Edelstein, agreed. "It's not just about Khan al-Ahmar, it's about the future of Judea and Samaria...and the future of our ability to have a rule of law here," he explained.
Danon and Edelstein visited the E-1 Corridor overlooking Khan al-Ahmar. They hope Netanyahu will evacuate it, setting a precedent for the removal of dozens of other illegal Palestinian settlements in biblical Judea and Samaria.
Strategically, this area is very important and sensitive for us; it is the bridge between Jerusalem to the Dead Sea," Danon told CBN News. "That's why the Palestinian Authority is putting so much energy, so much money. You can see the demonstrations that were organized against us this morning because they want to have control, but we will not allow that."
The 1993 Oslo Accords designate areas in the West Bank called "A" and "B," which are under some degree of Palestinian control. Khan al-Ahmar is in area "C," under complete Israeli control.
Meir Deutsch runs Revagim, a group dedicated to preventing illegal seizure of state land, in area C, in what they believe is biblical Judea and Samaria. He had a map showing how the areas were allocated under the Oslo Accords.
"You see that 70 percent of areas A and B, again, (are) under full Palestinian control, 70% of the land is not occupied. It's not as if they have to build in area C because they have no other place to live. They have plenty of land," he said.
Israel has already allocated another area near Jerusalem for the people of Khan al-Ahmar to live.near where Israel has already put infrastructure for them to live,
"The settlers of Khan al Ahmar are interested, and we have it on tape," Deutsch explained. "They are interested in moving to these legal plots, but the Palestinian Authority is not allowing them to move, because the Palestinian Authority wants them to stay...in the strategic place."
Danon maintains that the Palestinian Authority is actually forcing them to stay "because they're using them for their fight."
Palestinian protesters believe otherwise. When asked by a journalist why they wouldn't move to Abu Dis, a community east of Jerusalem near where Israel has already put infrastructure for them to live, one protester responded, "Why to move? This is the land for me as an indigenous Palestinian, even as an indigenous Jewish who started in this country didn’t come from Europe. He’s something different. It’s not about soil. It’s about the belonging."
Jamal Juma', another protester, said, "By taking this land here, it cuts off the West Bank – the south from the north. It’s part of the plan for destroying any possibility of a Palestinian state." He added, "This is Palestinian land. Israel is dealing with it as Israeli and it’s not an Israeli land."
It’s also about the involvement of the European Union, which leads to more complications.
"The EU is very involved here in funding the illegal building here," Danon said.
Deutsch added that the EU is illegally supplying the Palestinians with electricity and infrastructure, including generators.
Edelstein told CBN News, "No European country can decide that they will construct, illegally, schools or kindergartens, and then will protest the possible evacutation."
So, as outside influence on the battle over the land of Israel continues, so do the internal struggles in Netanyahu's government.
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