Sunday’s High Court of Justice decision ordering the removal of the largest outpost in Judea and Samaria by August has rattled its residents. The 50 families living in Migron had struck a deal with the government that would have allowed them to stay there for the next three and a half years until their permanent housing units were constructed nearby, but now they fear the provisions of that agreement will not be followed through.
“We demand that the prime minister implement this agreement and the understandings struck,” one of Migron’s founders, Itay Harel, said Monday at a press conference. “This [agreement] was part of the prime minister’s responsibility and therefore he must find the necessary solutions, despite the new reality, to allow continued settlement in this place, to which we were sent by Israeli governments.”
Migron, several miles north of Jerusalem, has become a bone of contention since its establishment in 1999. Left-wing groups claimed the families who set up the community’s first bungalows had illegally trespassed onto privately owned Palestinian land, whereas the residents claimed that they had obtained the necessary authorization to establish the new community. Last August, the High Court of Justice ruled in favor of the left-wing organization Peace Now, which petitioned the court on behalf of the alleged Palestinians owners of the property. The state was ordered to evacuate the residents and dismantle the site by April 2012, in what was hailed by some as the most important court decision on disputed construction in Judea and Samaria in years.
Over the past several months, the residents and the state have tried to find a way to avert a forceful evacuation, and the political fallout it might generate. Minister Without Portfolio Ze’ev Binyamin (Benny) Begin (Likud), an ally of Judea and Samaria residents, eventually struck a deal with Migron representatives which would allow residents to relocate voluntarily within three and a half years to a nearby community but would keep the vacated homes intact, pending a decision by the Civil Administration on their fate, thus leaving the door open to re-occupancy. Last week the state asked the court to approve the deal, saying that it complied with the August ruling. However, Peace Now said it flouted the court by ignoring its decision to remove the homes completely. The justices eventually sided with Peace Now on Sunday, but granted the state a four-month extension, until August 2012, to implement the decision.
Harel further discounted any wrongdoing on the part of Migron residents for setting up the outpost. “More than 12 years ago we arrived here and established this community with the help of the various government agencies,” he said. “Show me one tree, one house or anything that belongs to anyone who has ever been here [before us]; it was only after Peace Now told Palestinians that there was some land here that they began thinking about this matter.”
Migron residents have said they would not be willing to relocate temporarily to Adam, another community in the area, as has been previously floated. “The High Court of Justice has buried this agreement and now the ball is in Netanyahu’s court; he must find the right and proper remedy that would avert the destruction of our community,” Harel said.
Netanyahu met with Begin on Monday to discuss ways to comply with the court’s ruling, and specifically to explore temporary housing solutions for the residents until their permanent housing units are constructed, as stipulated by the agreement. Israel Hayom also learned that construction of the permanent homes will now accelerate, as the residents had been denied the extra years they had requested for planning and construction of their new homes. However, both Netanyahu and Begin are expected to fend off attempts by some on the right to pass legislation that would circumvent the court by affording legal status to some outposts built on private property.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin was the latest to react to the controversial High Court decision Monday, saying he would convene a special Knesset session on the matter despite the current recess should 25 MKs sign a request and forward it to him.
MK Danny Danon (Likud) called on Rivlin to convene the special session Monday, saying, “The High Court of Justice is trying, through its decision, to prevent the government from realizing its role, and therefore we must write the Migron agreement into the law books by means of Knesset legislation, thus showing the justices that the government is the sovereign power in the state of Israel.”
Fellow Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely attacked the court, saying, “The High Court of Justice’s submissiveness in the face of Peace Now’s dictates may exact a heavy price on the unity of Israel’s society.”