'Migron outpost can be evacuated in coming days'

State prosecutor tells High Court evacuation could proceed even though construction of alternate site still underway.

Migron outpost 370 (photo credit: Reuters)
Migron outpost 370
(photo credit: Reuters)
The West Bank Migron outpost should be evacuated in the coming days even though work is still being done on the new housing site for the 50 families, state prosecutor Anat Mandel told the High Court of Justice on Tuesday.
She spoke in response to a petition by the 50 Migron families to delay the evacuation until the site of their new homes, located by the Psagot winery two kilometers away on the same hilltop, is completed.
The hearing adjourned without any comment by the justices as to the fate of the families. The High Court has ordered them to relocate this month, because their homes were built without permits on land classified by the state as belonging to private Palestinians.
During the hearing Yuval Funk of the World Zionist Organization explained that there are 50 new modular homes ready to be populated at the site. He added that all the homes are outfitted with working utilities, and that only a fire permit was lacking.
The state has contracted the WZO to build the new site at a cost of NIS 35 million, head of the WZO settlements division Danny Kritchman later told The Jerusalem Post.
Kritchman added that he had himself inspected the site on Tuesday afternoon and found it suitable for habitation, even though work was still clearly continuing there.
In court, Funk gave a timetable for construction’s completion. The development work would be done by the end of the week, he said, although that wouldn’t include time to install lawns and plants in the dirt yards around the homes.
The community building and the synagogue were to be finished within seven to 10 days, Funk said. The secretariat building would be completed within four to five days, but the mikve would take another two months. The road has been paved on half the site, and the rest would be completed by September 2, he said. The sidewalks would be put in two days after the road’s completion, he said.
Guardrails, he added, would be put in Tuesday evening, but could take three more work sessions to fully install.
The issue of whether security fences were also needed was still under debate, Funk said.
But the engineer working on the site for the Binyamin Regional Council, Eli Barkal, said that it could take anywhere from two weeks to a month to complete the site. In particular he noted the electricity had not been inspected.
Apart from the construction issues, the court also heard arguments with respect to a petition by 17 families from Migron who claim to have purchased three land lots at the site: 2, 10 and 23. They have asked the court to allow them to remain in their homes while their purchase claim is validated by the court.
Initially the Ministerial Committee on Settlements said the buildings could remain if the land purchase claim was validated. But the Attorney-General’s Office in its response to the court last week said that only 25 percent of lot 23 was purchased, and so it was not possible for the settlers to live there.
With respects to lots 2 and 10, it said, the only way to access the land was by trespassing on abutting Palestinian property. However, if the purchase claim were valid, it would consider allowing the buildings on lot 10 to remain.
But, it added, there was no legal way for settlers to live on the land, and therefore all families must evacuate the site as ordered by the court.
On Tuesday, however, attorney Ze’ev Scharf, representing the 17 families, said that based on state maps it was possible to access the site. Moreover, he charged, the two Palestinians who owned the lots in question had sold the land before they died.
Therefore, there is no remaining claim to the land, he added.
“There is not a single petitioner here whose name is registered on a land deed,” Scharf said.
He charged that there was no official owners who opposed the settlers presence on the land.
Scharf further charged that Peace Now, which initially filed its petition against the outpost on behalf of the Palestinian land owners, had done so due to political motivations and not because they cared about Palestinian land rights.
During the debate Scharf clarified for the court that the Construction and Housing Ministry had paid for the outpost’s infrastructure when it was first constructed over a decade ago.
But Michael Sfard who represents Peace Now and the Palestinian landowners, said it was impossible to believe the settlers purchase claim. The landowners, he said, had legally fought for years to regain their property, but did not live to see the end of the case. Why would they suddenly sell the land before they died? he asked.
But the issue with respect to the three lots, he said, was rule of law.
The settlers built without permits on private Palestinian property and they must now leave that property, Sfard said. If they believe they had a valid purchase claim, they should authenticate it, pursue the proper permits and rebuild. he said.
The court’s decision, Sfard said, had wider implications beyond Migron, whose resident had essentially led a “revolt” against the state’s laws by “stealing” land and building on it.
Among those present in the court were two Palestinians who claim to have inherited the land on lots 2, 10 and 23 from the initial owners, as well as a Palestinian landowner of other property in Migron.
After the hearing, Sfard said that he believed the purchase claims were fraudulent and that the police were investigating them.
Migron residents Itai Harrel said that one thing was clear after the hearing: The land on these three lots had belonged to Jews.
He said he hoped that the court would now let the families who lived on those lots remain.
“All the legal evidence points to the fact that we should remain,” Harrel said.