By Alex Rossi, Middle East correspondent
The Palestinian chief negotiator says the planned demolition of a Bedouin village in the occupied West Bank amounts to “ethnic cleansing”.Saeb Erekat spoke to Sky News as Israel’s supreme court ruled the community of Khan Al Ahmar – which is home to 180 people – should be evacuated and destroyed. The decision followed years of legal wrangling.Israel says the village does not have proper building permits but the Palestinians claim the demolition is to make way for new Israeli settlements.There’s no doubt that Khan Al Ahmar is in a strategic location. It stands on the main road between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.
The area is known as ‘E1’ and the Palestinian Authority says if Israel creates new “facts on the ground” there the West Bank will be cut off from East Jerusalem – the place they hope to make the capital of a future state.Saeb Erekat says it is part of a bigger plan to create an ‘apartheid state’.He said: “Actually these Bedouins were evicted once from Beersheba by the Israelis for the same reason and now after the nationality law, which gave Jews only the right of self-determination from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean. they will begin a policy of ethnic cleansing and that’s what Khan Al Amour is all about.”The inhabitants of the village told me they were frightened for the future.
Israel has offered them alternative accommodation but they say it is not suitable for their way of life and it is situated next to a rubbish dump.Abu Youseff Dahook has lived in the area for decades. He fears his home will soon be gone.He said: “I think they will destroy it at any minute. The occupier is not listening to the UN or the EU. The Americans support them in every way. That’s why the Israelis do whatever they want in the Middle East.”The village has now become a symbol of a wider struggle attracting activists from around the world.
They claim the demolition is part of a plan to kill off the two-state solution.There have already been protests and scuffles at the site after Israel’s security forces arrived with bulldozers.The EU has also been increasingly outspoken.It opposes the destruction of the village claiming it would be a grave breach of international humanitarian law
Israel though denies that and says the village is not safe for habitation.Regavim, an Israeli pro-settler NGO – which has petitioned the courts to relocate the village – accuses the Palestinian Authority of playing politics with the Bedouins.The director of its international division, Naomi Kahn, claims the village was artificially created where it is because of its strategic importance.Like many people in Israel she sees the West Bank as disputed not occupied territory.
Ms Kahn said: “They’re not being removed from the area, they are being offered a much bigger and better more developed alternative and their traditions and their lifestyle are being very carefully preserved – this is not a war crime.”Abu Youseff though does not want to go.