Court hearing on Migron ends without a decision

Outpost residents ask High Court for more time; Palestinian landowners' attorney demands court take a stand in the case.

Migron outpost aerial_311 (photo credit: Baz Ratner / Reuters)
Migron outpost aerial_311
(photo credit: Baz Ratner / Reuters)
The High Court of Justice concluded a hearing on a petition filed by Migron residents asking for a delay in their eviction from the settlement outpost on Tuesday. The court was expected to announce its decision in the coming days.
Migron outpost residents on Monday afternoon petitioned the High Court of Justice to delay the evacuation of the 50 families that live there until such time as their new homes are ready.
The court had ordered the families to leave because their homes were built without permits on land classified by the state as belonging to private Palestinians.
At the hearing, a representative of the Binyamin Regional Council told the court that a new site with modular homes built for evacuated Migron residents will not be ready for several weeks, adding that permits to allow electricity to be turned on in the homes has not been approved.
Attorney Michael Sfard, who is representing the Palestinian families who own the land Migron is built on, argued that the court must order the demolition of Jewish homes in the outpost in order to take a stand on illegal construction.
Sfard asserted to the justices that Migron settlers stole land and built on it for ideological reasons in order to establish facts on the ground.
Last week the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.-Gen. Eitan Dangot sent a letter to Binyamin Regional Council head Avi Ro’eh in which he said that according to the court mandate, the families must leave their homes by the morning of August 28.
But in his written reply to Dangot on Sunday, Ro’eh said he believed that the evacuation could occur after a HJC court hearing on a request by 17 of the 50 families to remain on the site, set for Tuesday morning.
Migron families, however, believe that the disagreement between Dangot and Ro’eh as to the evacuation’s timetable is irrelevant because the new site two kilometers away, near the Psagot winery is not ready.
Although modular homes have been placed at the site, the public institutions including the school, the synagogue and the mikve are not ready, Ro’eh and Migron residents said. There are also safety concerns that need to be addressed.
On Monday, Migron residents and settler leaders focused on preparing for Tuesday’s court hearing regarding the fate of the 17 Migron families who claim to have purchased the property on which their homes are located from the Palestinian land owners. They have asked to remain in their homes until the court can validate their claim.
But last week the Attorney General’s Office told the court that the families must move because, irrespective of their purchase claim, it was not possible for Israelis to live on that plot of land without infringing on the rights of the abutting Palestinian property owners.
The office explained that it was not possible to access the purchased property without trespassing on Palestinian property.
On Monday Coalition Chairman MK Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) and Danny Dayan, who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip held a closed door meeting with residents and other settler leaders to discuss Tuesday’s hearing.
Dayan said the settlers plan to explain to the court that the site can be accessed through existing abandoned property or state land.
He held a map in his hand with access routes.
Settlers have argued that there is no need to evacuate the site and the state could appeal to the court to allow them to stay.
They have noted in particular, that the attorney general’s response differs from that of the Ministerial Settlements Committee, which said that the 17 families could remain if the purchase claim was validated.
However Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has stood behind a policy adopted by his government that Jewish homes built without authorization on private Palestinian property must be evacuated.
In a show of support for continued Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria, on Monday, Netanyahu visited the Efrat settlement to mark the first day of school.
He said that “Efrat and Gush Etzion are an integral, fundamental and evident part of greater Jerusalem. They are the southern gates of Jerusalem and will always be part of the State of Israel.
“We are building Efrat and Gush Etzion with enthusiasm, faith and responsibility; thus we are also building education,” said Netanyahu.
But right wing activists were not swayed by his words.
At the bottom of the hill where Migron is located, they placed many large signs against Netanyahu including one in English, which said, “Bibi is weak and not trustworthy. Right wing leader urgently needed.”
Other signs said, “Bibi is sacrificing Migron.”
Outside of political protests, area settlers made solidarity visits to Migron.
Families from the Ulpana outpost, who left their homes this summer after a similar court mandate came to the outpost Monday to distribute chocolate to the residents.