1,450 settlement homes to be debated

State gives final building permits to 50 new Adam homes intended for evacuees of Migron outpost.

sign to migron 248 AJ (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
sign to migron 248 AJ
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Civil Administration will soon present for public scrutiny a detailed town planning blueprint for 1,450 housing units in the secular Adam settlement, just north of Jerusalem, the state informed the High Court of Justice on Monday. The new homes are to include at least 50 units for the settlers currently living in the unauthorized Migron outpost. Although the plan covers an area eventually earmarked for 1,450 new units, it focuses primarily on one neighborhood designated for 190 units. For now, building permits will only be issued for the 50 homes for the Migron families, who would be relocated to Adam once the homes are completed, in a process that could take up to three years. The document about the Migron plan was submitted to the court on the same day that Defense Minister Ehud Barak was scheduled to meet in New York with US Mideast envoy George Mitchell, to hammer out an agreement on the issue of settlement construction. While the plan flies in the face of the US pressure to freeze all settlement construction, it does respond to the American demand that all outposts, such as Migron, built after March 2001 be removed. The Defense Ministry has said there are 26 such outposts, of which Migron with 250 residents is the largest. Details of a deal to relocate the Migron families to Adam that was worked out between the government and the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip were first released in November 2008. But this is the first time the state has clearly clarified that it would involve approval of a detailed master plan for 1,450 new units. Adam, also known as Geva Binyamin, has 3,700 residents and is just outside Jerusalem on the way to Ramallah. It is 6.6 km. over the Green Line and is outside the West Bank security barrier. In addressing the Migron deal on Israel Radio Monday, Barak's settlement adviser Eitan Broshi said the state had submitted its response to meet a deadline set by the court, which by coincidence coincided with the minister's trip to the US. He added that he believed moving the Migron families to a nearby settlement met the American demands and was consistent with Israeli law. "No decision was ever taken to relocate the residents of the unauthorized outposts within the Green Line," Broshi said. He denied that the relocation plan for the Migron families expanded the Adam settlement. He said that unless one wanted to see a repeat of the violent clashes that occurred in the winter of 2006, when security forces demolished nine empty homes at the Amona outpost, it was best to try to reach a deal with those living in the settlement outposts. The brief given to the court on Monday came in the form of a second affidavit signed by Broshi. In February, he filed the main part of the affidavit in which he informed the court that settlement leaders had agreed to move the Migron inhabitants to a new neighborhood in Adam, a legal settlement. Migron, on the other hand, was built on privately owned Palestinian land, without government permission. The cabinet decision to evacuate Migron came in the wake of a petition by Palestinians who own land in the illegal outpost. The petition, filed on their behalf by attorney Michael Sfard, called on the state to implement demolition orders that had already been issued by the Civil Administration against all the buildings, most of them mobile homes, in Migron. Monday's brief was the first update presented by the state to the High Court to inform it of the progress it was making in carrying out its plan. While the plan would involve the authorization of a detailed master plan for Adam, to replace the more general master plan approved in 1997, the only construction that would be permitted would be for the 50 homes. The Council of Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip has accepted the plan in the name of the Migron families even though the residents of Migron have insisted that they do not intend to leave the outpost. Politicians from both the Right and Left criticized the Defense Ministry's plan. "Exposing the approval of [a master plan for] 1,450 housing units in Adam invalidates Barak's visit to the United States, and it would be better if he spared himself the disgrace," MK Ophir Paz-Pines (Labor) said in a statement. The decision proved that "the Defense Ministry is not taking its job seriously, as it has not yet evacuated Migron and is already building in Adam for virtual evacuees from the very same Migron," the statement added. Peace Now secretary-general Yariv Oppenheimer saw the report as confirming that all 1,450 units had received final governmental approval, a move Peace Now warned would happen already in February. "The Israeli bluffing system is setting new records," he said. "Instead of evacuating an illegal outpost of 40 housing units, Barak is awarding outlaws with an approval to build a future settlement of 1,450 housing units east of the [Green Line]. Barak is proving to settler leadership that violence and creating illegal outposts pay off." MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) called on Migron residents to oppose the Defense Ministry's plan that they move to Adam. When it comes to the government's intention to dismantle small settlements, compromises were out of the question, Ben-Ari said. Minorities Affairs Minister Avishai Braverman (Labor), however, lauded the plan, saying transferring residents of outposts to larger settlements would "improve Israel's opening position in negotiations" for a two-state solution. Shalhevet Zohar and Jonah Mandel contributed to this report.