State asks High Court to delay Migron evacuation

Gov’t plans to expand Kochav Ya’acov settlement by 70 dunams to accomodate homes for outpost residents.

Migron outpost aerial_311 (photo credit: Baz Ratner / Reuters)
Migron outpost aerial_311
(photo credit: Baz Ratner / Reuters)
The state on Wednesday asked the High Court of Justice to cancel its order to evacuate the Migron outpost in the West Bank by the end of the month.
It asked the court for an extension to allow all 50 Migron families time to build permanent homes on 70 dunams (7 hectares) of state land 2 kilometers away by November 30, 2015.
Right-wing politicians and settler leaders hailed the request as a worthy compromise that respected the rule of law.
Left-wing activists and politicians said it subverted the rule of law and broke Israel’s pledge to the international community not to expand the boundaries of existing settlements.
The proposed new Migron site is under the auspices of the Binyamin Regional Council but it does not belong to any settlement. Fifty of its 70 dunams are now zoned for commercial use.
The only structure is a visitor center for the Psagot Winery that includes a parking lot.
Those 50 dunams plus another 20 will now be rezoned for residential use.
As part of the relocation plan, the state intends to expand the boundaries of the nearby Kochav Ya’acov settlement to include the 70 dunams.
Kochav Ya’acov is located 300 meters away from the commercial area as the crow flies. The settlement and the new Migron site are separated by a 1.5-kilometer-long road.
The state noted that experts had said the new site’s topography could make construction difficult. But it added that this hardship could be overcome.
Once the Migron families have moved, the former site of their outpost will be under the auspices of the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria.
The state turned to the court after months of negotiations with the Migron settlers, led by Minister-without-Portfolio Bennie Begin, to prevent a forced evacuation of the outpost.
Only on Sunday night did Migron residents sign an addendum letter stating that they agreed to relocate.
Their fate now lies in the hands of the High Court, which in August issued a binding order to evacuate the outpost.
It said the outpost, which is mostly composed of modular homes, was built without the proper permits on private Palestinian property.
The court is expected to hold a hearing on the matter before it issues a decision.
Peace Now, which filed a petition against Migron, objected to the state’s request. It said that it made a mockery of the court and violated Israel’s promises to the international community.
Peace Now’s attorney Michael Sfard said that a state request to reverse a High Court ruling was unprecedented.
It has “disguised” that request by asking for an extension, Sfard said. The state is asking the court “to allow threeand- a-half more years of a land grab,” he said.
Peace Now executive director Yaariv Oppenheimer said the state had put the justices in an impossible position.
“The outcome of the solution, according to the state, is that the Supreme Court would allow people to continue to sit on private Palestinian land,” he said.
Oppenheimer also charged that approval of permanent homes on the new site was tantamount to the creation of a new settlement.
Israel, he said, promised the international community that it would not build new West Bank settlements or expand the borders of existing ones.
It was breaking that pledge by placing 70 additional dunams of land within Kochav Ya’acov’s borders, he said.
“Israel believes that it will be easier for the international community to digest the expansion of a settlement than the creation of a new one,” Oppenheimer said. “But that is a fraud. This is a totally new settlement.”
The Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to the accusation.
An Israeli official said, however, that this was the best compromise that could be reached under the circumstances.
Dani Dayan, chairman of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, said, “I hope the Supreme Court will approve the request which honors the rule of law and provides justice for the residents. I think it is a fair way out of a difficult situation.”
MK Danny Danon (Likud) said, “The agreement was signed after a lot of work and compromise from the pioneers who live in Migron.”
He said that no one wanted to see a repeat of the violent clashes that occurred in 2006, when the state demolished nine permanent structures at the Amona outpost.
Danon said he hoped similar relocation agreements could be reached for other outposts located on private Palestinian property, such as Givat Assaf and Amona.
“The Likud government was elected not to demolish Jewish homes. I think we will do everything we can to prevent the demolition of any Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria,” Danon said.
MK Zehava Gal-On (Meretz) said, however, that “Netanyahu’s government continues to override the High Court of Justice decisions and to cave in to the blackmail of the radical Migron settlers.”
The Migron agreement is the second one that has been reached to relocate the outpost.
In 2008, the government and the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip agreed to move the families to the nearby Adam settlement within two years.
Migron residents never agreed to relocate and new homes were never built for them due to bureaucratic delays.
According to a government report compiled by attorney Talia Sasson in 2005, Migron was built in May 2001 with NIS 4.3 million from the Construction and Housing Ministry.