Gov't, settlers seek to resolve deadlocked Migron talks

Likud minister calls on residents of West Bank outpost to accept deal to relocate their homes 2 kilometers away.

By
February 27, 2012 22:58
West Bank outpost [illustrative]

Migron outpost aerial_311. (photo credit: Baz Ratner / Reuters)

 
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Migron outpost residents on Monday urged Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to personally intervene in the deadlocked negotiations with the government to prevent the court-ordered destruction of their West Bank community by the end of March.

“Do not needlessly demolish our homes,” Migron spokesman Itai Chemo said, during a demonstration held near Netanyahu’s office in the capital.

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Throughout the day, settlers, politicians and the government’s negotiator in the talks, Minister-without-Portfolio Bennie Begin (Likud), publicized details of the impasse through the media.

An Israeli official told The Jerusalem Post that Netanyahu had full confidence in Begin, his representative in this matter.

In August, the High Court of Justice ruled that the homes in Migron, most of which are modular, were built without the necessary permits on land classified by the state as belonging to Palestinians.

In an effort to avert a forced demolition of the outpost, the state through Begin has in recent months looked to find a compromise with the settlers.

At a press conference in the Prime Minister’s Office on Monday, Begin read from the text of the government’s proposal, which asked Migron residents to relocate their outpost to state land 2 km. away.

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“I hope Migron residents will agree, even in the next few hours, to turn with us to the courts, so we can resolve this in a peaceful manner,” he said.

Once an agreement is reached, the state will ask the court to give the settlers until November 30, 2015, to build new homes on state land, on another part of the same hilltop where they are now located, Begin said.

He warned that the topography in that part of the hilltop, near the Psagot winery, was “not easy,” and that building preparations and securing permits would take time.

Migron residents would pay for the construction of their homes, Begin added.

Meanwhile, they are barred from constructing new buildings in their present location, he said.

After November 30, 2015, the land on which Migron is now located will revert to the control of the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria, which will raze the homes.

It will then consider using the land for civilian, non-residential purposes, Begin said.

All 48 families in Migron must sign a letter stating that they accept the agreement, the Likud minister said. Only then can the state turn to the court and ask that it rescind its demolition ruling, in favor of the agreement.

Avi Ro’eh, chairman of the Binyamin Regional Council, told the Post that “Migron residents want to sign a deal with the government.” But the document Begin presented to the residents differed from the oral agreement he had reached with them, said Ro’eh. (Migron is located within his council’s jurisdiction.) “Begin has reneged on his promises to Migron residents,” Ro’eh said.

Settler leader Dani Dayan urged both sides to sign an agreement.

“We encourage both the residents of Migron and Begin to reach an agreement as soon as possible, and that will prevent the demolition of the homes,” said Dayan, who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.

But Ro’eh said that Migron residents wanted the state to wait for the status of the land to be adjudicated in a local land court, before demolishing their homes.

Migron residents say the status of their land has never properly been adjudicated.

They are hoping that a Jerusalem land court will reclassify the property.

Ro’eh said the residents want the state to promise to only demolish the outpost homes if the land court upholds the classification of the land as belonging to private Palestinians.

If the court determines that the outpost is located on state land, why should the state demolish the structures? Ro’eh asked.

Outside the Knesset, Chemo said, “Just a few words divide us from the government.”

MK Danny Danon (Likud) said that he planned to personally appeal to Netanyahu late on Monday night.

“Begin gave up. We cannot leave it like this. The demolition of Migron could destabilize the coalition,” Danon warned.

In the Knesset plenum, MK Zehava Gal- On (Meretz) said that Migron residents were no better than “pirates” or “bandits” who had stolen Palestinian land. “I do not know any normal country that would make an agreement with such bank robbers,” she said.

This government “gave the settlers a finger and now they want to take the whole hand,” she said. The same army that is contemplating attacking Iran should not be afraid of a confrontation with the settlers, Gal-On said.

Begin defended the actions of the settlers.

He said that although it had been a mistake to build Migron in its present location, its residents should not be held accountable for that error.

“Migron residents moved there convinced, albeit falsely, that the government supported them,” Begin said.

He added that he felt that he felt responsible for the actions of this government and past ones with respect to Migron.

“We can not ignore the situation. We need to find the right way, through a compromise, to make it easier for them [Migron residents], to do what they need to,” Begin said.

But Peace Now’s executive director Yariv Oppenheimer posted a YouTube video in which he appealed to Migron residents to abide by the initial court ruling and voluntarily evacuate the outpost by the end of March.

“This is your moment to decide if you respect the state’s institutions even when you disagree with them,” he said. “Are you part of the state or against it?” he asked.

On Tuesday, Peace Now and Meretz plan to hold a conference in the Knesset on Migron.

According to a government report compiled by attorney Talia Sasson in 2005, Migron was built in May 2001 with NIS 4.3 million from the Construction and Housing Ministry.

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