The High Court of Justice sharply criticized the state on Thursday during a
hearing on the government’s request to delay the evacuation of the West Bank
Migron outpost, originally scheduled for the end of this month, until November
The court is expected to decide early next week whether to
accept the state’s request.
If it refuses the request, the state must
evacuate Migron no later than March 31.
Justices Salim Joubran and Miriam
Naor slammed the state for making its request this month, at the “last minute,”
after the court had issued a ruling on the matter in August.
also chastised it for failing to include the Palestinian landowners in the
negotiations it held with the settlers, in which the latter agreed to
voluntarily relocate to a site 2 kilometers away within the next three and a
Supreme Court President Asher Dan Grunis said the matter was
“The court has already given its ruling,” he said. “We are
dealing with a request for an extension of that ruling.”
In August, the
High Court ordered the state to evacuate Migron because it was constructed
without proper permits on land classified as belonging to
In that ruling, the justices had said there was “no
justification for preserving the illegal situation and continued violation of
Palestinian property rights.”
The Migron outpost, which is home to 50
families, is located in the Binyamin region, 5 km. north of Jerusalem. It
was established in May 2002, with NIS 4.3 million from the Ministry of
Construction and Housing.
Peace Now first petitioned the High Court to
evacuate Migron in 2006, on behalf of Palestinians who own the land on which the
outpost is built.
Earlier this month the state asked the court to set
aside that ruling in favor of an agreement to relocate the outpost to state land
that it had brokered with Migron residents with the help of
Minister-without-Portfolio Bennie Begin.
Peace Now opposes the state’s
request, saying it undermines the rule of law because it effectively overturns
the court’s ruling on Migron.
As Thursday’s hearing opened, attorney
Osnat Mandel, representing the state, said the state had come to the court with
a “very simple request, behind which is a strong desire from the political
echelons to reach an agreement by peaceful means.”
Mandel said Migron’s
residents were not willing to accept the solution offered them by the state in
2008, to move to the neighboring Adam settlement. However, she added, Migron
residents accepted their obligation to comply with the court ruling to evacuate
“The Settler Council’s proposal [to move Migron residents to
Adam] was not successful, and we regret that,” she said. “However, we have come
to an understanding that all illegal buildings in Migron will be
Mandel explained that the solution reached in the state’s
agreement with Migron residents would take until 2015 to carry out, because it
involves planning and construction work to create the new houses, which will be
built on state land.
She said the state would report to the court every
six months on its progress.
“The proposed solution will allow the rule of
law to be maintained, despite all the difficulties it raises regarding the court
ruling,” Mandel added, referring to Peace Now’s objections to the
Attorney Barak Bar-Shalom, who represents Migron Council secretary
Avi Teksler, also slammed the state in the hearing – saying that previous
governments were to blame for the current state of affairs.
responsible for the situation. The state was very involved in Migron’s
development, pouring millions of shekels into it, and the Housing Ministry
issued permits for 500 housing units in Migron,” he said, adding that the state
therefore had a responsibility to find a peaceful solution for Migron’s
Bar-Shalom said Migron residents were prepared to leave but
were not yet ready to do so.
“The [Palestinian] petitioners would never
have known they had a claim to the lands, if it wasn’t for Peace Now,” he added,
saying that no real harm had been done to the Palestinians.
that the rule of law must be upheld.
“How would it seem to the man in the
street if there is a court ruling that is not upheld?” he said.
asked why the state had not reached a similar agreement with Migron residents
five years ago, when the petition was filed, and noted that some of the
petitioners had since died.
“There is no guarantee that the plan will be
carried out during the extension you request,” he said.
Weinroth, representing the residents of Migron, said that the outpost had become
a symbol of the whole debate over the settlement movement. The state’s agreement
with the outpost’s residents was also symbolic, he said.
residents have two choices: to continue to live in their world and wait to be
evacuated by force. Ideologically, this was the easiest thing,” Weinroth said.
“The second way was for them to say, ‘Despite what I think, I will walk away
because that’s what the High Court ruled.’” In response to a question from Naor
about what would happen if the state’s plans were not implemented within three
years, Weinroth said Migron residents would go to temporary
Migron’s settlers wanted to stay on the same hilltop (i.e., move 2
kilometers as per the agreement) because they felt a connection with “ancestral
land” and do not want to be uprooted, he said.
Attorney Michael Sfard,
representing the Palestinian petitioners, slammed the state’s deal with the
settlers and said it was not a request to extend a deadline but to overturn a
court ruling made months ago.
There was a wider issue at stake, Sfard
“If the government believes it can dismiss any court ruling if it
feels uncomfortable with it, it will continue requesting such ‘delays,’” he
The Peace Now attorney also criticized the state’s presentation of
the deal as a “peaceable solution,” calling it a “ticking timebomb” and accusing
the prime minister and the attorney- general of “crawling to accept the bizarre
demands of Migron residents.
“Behind that word is another word – ‘war,’”
he said. “They are asking the court to accept the deal – or else. But what would
they say if I were to say that if the agreement was accepted, there would be an
intifada?” Unusually for a High Court hearing, in which in most cases only
lawyers for the various sides speak, the justices permitted
Minister-without-Portfolio Bennie Begin to make a statement.
by saying that Migron was an “error by previous governments,” and that there was
no dispute over the fact that settlements cannot be built on private Palestinian
“I see great importance to this agreement. It shows that in the
final analysis, there is no alternative but to accept court rulings, even for
people who believe strongly in a particular ideology,” he said.
Naor criticized Begin for “leaving the Palestinian petitioners out of the
picture” in the negotiations, as if they did not exist.
“I didn’t ask the
petitioners because I thought it would not help us reach an agreement,” the
Yariv Oppenheimer, general director of Peace Now,
said after the hearing that he hoped the court would not accede to the state’s
request. To accept the deal with Migron residents would mean “bringing politics
into the court,” he said.
Peace Now attorney Sfard said he felt more
optimistic coming out of the hearing than when he entered it, but that it was
clear the state had reneged on its obligation to consider the greater public
interest and not just that of Migron residents.