(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
The High Court of Justice on Tuesday ordered the state to demolish seven empty structures on the site of the former Migron outpost in the Binyamin region of the West Bank within 45 days.
It further mandated the State to remove the cellular towers on the site, but granted a 60-day appeal period to the relevant cellular companies.
Finally, the court said the development firm Al-Watan, the company that had petitioned to save the structures, must pay NIS 30,000 to the Palestinian property owners.
The seven structures and cellular towers are all that remain of the small fledgling community of 50 families that were forcibly evacuated from their hilltop homes to a nearby location close to the Psagot winery in September 2012. The rest of the Migron structures were demolished at that time.
Migron was first built in 2001 without proper permits on property that belonged to the Palestinian villages of Burqa and Deir Dibwan.
The Housing Ministry provided NIS 4.3 million for infrastructure and public buildings in Migron, and Israeli officials quietly promised its residents that one day the community would be legalized. But almost from the start it also was under threat of demolition from the government and the IDF.
In 2006, Peace Now petitioned the High Court of Justice against the outpost on behalf of the Palestinian land owners. Tuesday’s ruling marks the end of the Peace Now petition.
In 2012, the court had agreed to leave seven of the structures standing, pending investigation of a purchase claim and the possibility of registering the property to Al Watan, which initially bought the land from a Palestinian land owner, known as lot 10.
In ordering the demolition of the structures, however, the high court did not focus on the adjudication in the lower courts or the overall question of legality.
Its decision was based on its understanding that it was not possible to legally register the property at this time.
The court noted that it had ordered only a short delay in the demolition of these seven structures with the hope that the issues of the purchase claim and legal property registration would be resolved quickly.
But the issue has dragged out for more than two-and-a-half years. The structures are empty and any resolution of the purchase issue would not allow them to be inhabited.
At best, what could occur is the eventual legal registration of the property to Jewish owners and the ability to use the land for agriculture, the court said.
Should it be possible to legally register the land to Al-Watan, new structures could be placed there, the court said.
Peace Now’s attorney Michael Sfard said, in response to the ruling, “I am happy that the attempt to circumvent the court decision to evacuate Migron has failed and that the settler company Al Watan was ordered to pay NIS 30,000 to the land owners. It is a powerful message by the court that these kinds of tricks will not tolerated.”
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