"Migron: Everyone’s struggle,” states the slogan on the large red-and-black
plastic canvas signs stretched along Route 60 from Jerusalem to the West Bank’s
The small unauthorized outpost, which is home to 50
families, is set so far back on a hilltop 5 kilometers outside of the capital
that it is almost impossible to see it from the road.
But in the midst of
diplomatic and social crises besetting the country, it has captured a large
amount of judicial and political attention in recent months.
politicians have visited the outpost and lobbied on its behalf. Knesset Speaker
Reuven Rivlin even advocated legalizing it in the plenum.
Likud MK Danny
Danon plans to raise the matter with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu next
But their efforts had no impact on the judicial system.
week, the High Court of Justice issued a landmark ruling against the outpost. It
affirmed that it was illegal and demanded that the state dismantle it within
eight months. The ruling was in response to a 2006 Peace Now petition against
The Defense Ministry has promised numerous times that it
would dismantle this or that outpost, including Migron. The court has supported
But this week’s Migron ruling marks the first time the
court has ordered the state to dismantle entirely in its entirety one of the
more than 100 unauthorized Jewish communities in the West Bank that have been
built in the last two decades.
The judgment carries particular weight
because it is final, and not subject to appeal. There is, however, a minor
possibility of bringing the matter to an expanded panel of judges, but legal
experts consider this step unlikely.
On the surface, it might seem that
the demolition of some 50 homes, mostly modular ones, would have little impact
on the future of Jewish settlement in the West Bank, let alone the larger
questions of Palestinian statehood.
But the questions surrounding the
destruction or legalization of the community touch on many of the major issues
involving Jewish presence in the West Bank.
These include the status of
West Bank land with respect to Jewish or Palestinian ownership; the role the
court plays in West Bank policy; the political implications that the specter of
demolishing Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria would have for Israeli
leaders; and the possibility of the violence that could ensue.
outpost was first constructed somewhere between 1999 and May 2001, the latter
date being according to the state its official beginning. It is one of some 100
small communities built after 1990, without proper permits but with government
funding and the tacit understanding that official approvals would be
Migron residents, for example, have copies of documents from
the Defense Ministry showing an intent to legalize the outpost.
diplomatic reasons, none of the outposts, including Migron, were
Since Netanyahu came into office, however, the government has
changed its stance on outposts, and has shown a willingness to consider the
Although Israel has promised the international community that
it will not authorize new settlements, there are those in the Netanyahu
government who believe that this promise does not apply to outposts, since they
Numerous recent state responses to the court regarding
petitions to remove outposts have spoken of the state’s intention to legalize
those outposts situated on state land.
However, a small number of the
outposts, including Migron, are situated on land that the state considers
private Palestinian property; as such, legalization is not
Setters have argued that the status of the Migron land is no
different than that of some settlements.
They add that the land, for the
most part, could be considered abandoned property. Migron residents concede that
some of the lots did belong to Palestinians – and in those instances, they say,
they have purchased the property. To date, though, they have been unable to
prove that the land was bought.
Peace Now has contended that the Migron
land is clearly registered to Palestinians and that the issue is not in dispute.
The state has accepted the classification of the land as Palestinian. The High
Court of Justice, this week, stated its belief as well that the land belongs to
The state had asked the court for time to relocate the
outpost to a nearby settlement, although it did not set a timetable for that
removal, having already gone over the two-year deadline set in 2008.
court overruled the state and demanded that Migron be evacuated by the end of
March, irrespective of any plans the state had to relocate the settlers living
It’s a decision that could have implications for other outposts on
land classified by the state as Palestinian, such as Givat Assaf, which is
located a short distance away from Migron. It could also have some bearing on
those settlements such as Ofra, which, though legally recognized communities,
are also situated mostly on private Palestinian property.
The move has
political implications as well, because it could force Netanyahu’s government
into an unwanted battle with the settlers, particularly since a large portion of
his power base is rightwing.
This potential minor battle comes at a time
when Netanyahu might have to galvanize support for diplomatic concessionary
moves to counter the Palestinian bid for statehood.
politicians in particular fear association with a government that could be
responsible for clashes with settlers like those that occurred in 2006, when the
Defense Ministry was ordered by the court to demolish nine empty homes at the
Amona outpost, also in the Binyamin region.
FOR THE left wing, the court
affirmed this week that justice could be obtained from a legally independent
judicial system. It was also a small step toward restoring Palestinian ownership
over West Bank land.
For the right wing, it was one more attempt by what
they consider a left-leaning court to overrule governmental policy in favor of
its own agenda.
Coming just six years after the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza
and four northern Samaria communities, and less than a year after the end of the
temporary moratorium on new settlement construction, it is yet another step that
underscores for the settlement movement the fragility of their existence in
Judea and Samaria.
As such, Migron has become a symbol of Jewish
continuity in the West Bank, which has broader implications than just the fate
of 50 families.
For the Migron residents and their supporters, one of the
significant battles for Judea and Samaria will take place among the small paved
roads of their outpost, which is littered with bicycles and baby
If they lose here, they fear that other outposts and possibly
settlements could suffer the same fate.
If they win, they believe they
will be one step closer to ensuring their eternal future in Judea and Samaria.