By David M. Halbfinger and Rami Nazzal
KHAN AL-AHMAR, West Bank — The herders are being herded.
Any day now, the Israeli Army says, bulldozers will arrive to wipe the West Bank Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar off the map.
For decades, Israel has wanted to clear a large section of the West Bank of several thousand Bedouins — who raise sheep and goats in the creases of the hills east of Jerusalem — to make room for the expansion of Jewish settlements.
After an ugly televised eviction in the late 1990s, when soldiers hauled off families and bulldozers leveled a whole neighborhood, displaying the occupation’s brute force, liberal Israeli judges and foreign diplomats helped slow the expulsions. Nothing was stopped, but much was stalled — again and again.
The army issued scores of demolition orders for the Bedouins’ rickety hovels of corrugated tin, scrap wood and nylon fabric. Periodically, soldiers tore down a few shacks, toppled water tanks, carted off solar panels or staged military training exercises on the site, in what critics called a drip-drip campaign to make life so miserable that residents would simply leave. But the army did not dare demolish an entire village again.
Now, however, the brakes may be off. With the Trump administration providing diplomatic cover, right-wing ministers in Israel pressing to exploit that while it lasts and international support for the Palestinians focused for the moment on Gaza, a new ruling by a settler-majority panel of Israel’s Supreme Court appears to have freed the government to proceed with the removal of entire Bedouin communities on the West Bank. Advocates of the Bedouins say this would be a war crime: the forced transfer of a population under the protection of the military occupation.
“Everyone’s asking me, ‘What are you going to do, Bedouin?’” said Eid Abu Khamis, 51, Khan al-Ahmar’s leader. “I don’t have an F-16 or an F-15. I’m asking the international community: Where are the laws?”
Khan al-Ahmar is a dusty dot on the map, tucked behind a highway dividing two bustling Israeli settlements: Maale Adumim, so well-established as a suburb of Jerusalem that even leftists concede it would need to be carved out of a future Palestinian state; and a fast-growing offshoot, Kfar Adumim.
Bedouins have made the place their year-round home since at least the 1970s, though some, like Mr. Abu Khamis, say they were born there even earlier. Their tribe, the Jahalin, had wandered the Negev desert until being expelled by Israel after its establishment in 1948. When they arrived here in what was the uninhabited West Bank, the area was under Jordan’s control.