Did US pressure Israel not to evacuate illegal Arab settlement?

The U.S. asked Israel to hold off on the demolition of the illegal Bedouin settlement, Likud Knesset Member Yoav Kisch said.

By World Israel News Staff

Israel delayed evacuating the illegal Bedouin settlement of Khan al-Ahmar due to American pressure, said Likud MK Yoav Kisch in a Tuesday interview with the Knesset channel.

“I understood that because of the transition period the answer was that we want to wait until after the peace plan is presented,” Kisch said. “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.”

Khan al-Ahmar is an illegal settlement built at the end of the 1990s southeast of Jerusalem on the strategically significant Highway 1, which connects Israel’s north and south. It sits in an area known as E1, which falls fully under Israeli military and civilian control.

According to Regavim, an NGO that deals with land issues, Khan al-Ahmar is part of a larger plan of the Palestinian Authority to build settlements along Highway 1 in order to create de facto ownership in a contiguous stretch of territory from Bethlehem in the south through Ramallah and to Jenin in the north.

The State of Israel has invested millions of shekels in preparing an area in Abu Dis, another village near Jerusalem but which falls under the Palestinian Authority’s control, with the intention of transferring Khan al-Ahmar’s population.

In May 2018, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that the settlement could be evicted. However, the eviction was not carried out by the Netanyahu government despite a coalition of pro-Israel groups calling on the prime minister to carry out the eviction.

When then-Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman quit the government in November 2018, the secondary reason he cited, after the issue of Hamas in Gaza, was the government’s failure to evict Khan al-Ahmar.

It wasn’t clear at the time why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hesitated to carry out a decision popular with his base. If Kisch is correct that it was due to U.S. pressure, it would throw light on the issue.

Kisch also said in the interview that Israel should explain to the U.S. why Khan al-Ahmar is of “enormous and inherent significance.” He noted that it “sends a problematic message that we’re not [evacuating the settlement], so I think it’s important that we need to solve this issue with the Americans and advance the solution.”

Regavim Director of Activities Yachin Zik said, “Prime Minister 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.”