The Israeli government has said the demolition of the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar will still go ahead, but the bulldozers have been delayed for “several weeks” to try to negotiate a resettlement.
In a move that acknowledges the international outcry, just days after Theresa May said it would be “a major blow to the prospects of a two-state solution,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “a short, fixed period” would be given to negotiate with the 300 Bedouin residents, who were resettled to Khan al-Ahmar in the 1950s after they were evicted from their village in the Negev.
Israel’s High Court has approved the demolition, but Israel’s Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit is understood to have warned that the forced removal of Bedouin villagers would aid the Palestinian case at the International Criminal Court.
Right-wing members of Netanyahu’s cabinet want the “illegal” village razed as soon as possible to make way for Jewish settlement expansion, because the West Bank village sits between Ma’ale Adumim and Kfar Adumim, which together house about 45,000 Jewish settlers.
However international leaders have urged the Israelis to reconsider. The village, which has a school, has been funded by EU money, and the EU, UN, International Criminal Court (ICC) and human rights group Amnesty International have all said the demolition would constitute a war crime under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Last week ICC prosecutor Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Fatou Bensouda said “extensive destruction of property without military necessity and [forced] population transfers in an occupied territory constitute war crimes under the Rome Statute”.
However this week Netanyahu said the village’s demolition would still go ahead, adding: “This is the decision of the court, this is our policy, and it will be implemented”. Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who opposed the delay, said the decision was “irreversible”.