High Court to decide fate of Migron

The options: Dismantle the illegal outpost immediately, or give residents a year to voluntarily relocate to the settlement of Adam.

sign to migron 248 AJ (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
sign to migron 248 AJ
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The High Court of Justice will have to decide between ordering an immediate dismantling of the illegal outpost of Migron by force or waiting at least one year to see whether the residents of the outpost will voluntarily choose to build new homes in the settlement of Adam, east of the separation barrier. The court's options became clear on Monday, during the final hearing of a petition filed three years ago by Peace Now and Palestinian landowners. The petitioners demanded that the state enforce demolition orders issued by the Civil Administration against all the buildings in Migron because they were built on land owned and registered in the names of the Palestinians. At the end of the hearing, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch said the decision would be handed down at another time. Some 250 residents, including almost 50 families, currently live in the outpost, which was established without government authorization in 2001. The petition was filed in 2006. Immediately afterwards, the state's representative, attorney Aner Hellman, acknowledged that the outpost had been built on privately owned Palestinian land and would have to be removed. However, he asked the court for one extension after another to give the Minister of Defense time to reach a negotiated agreement with settlement leaders on the evacuation. In February, he announced that the Council of Settlements in Judea and Samaria had agreed that the residents of Migron would move to new housing in Adam. The residents of Migron, who were not party to the agreement and have repeatedly said they would not move, reacted with fury to the hearing. "The fate of Judea and Samaria neighborhoods cannot be decided upon in a hearing in this or any other court," they were quoted by Army Radio as saying, adding that they were not prepared to accept any evacuation agreement. They further stated that "we were sent to this place 10 years ago by the country in order to settle the rocky and empty hill which had never been worked upon, and we didn't expel any people from their land." The petitioners told the court the state's proposal was unacceptable. During Monday's hearing, Hellman estimated that the state would know within a year whether the Migron settlers would, indeed, agree to move. He said that in 2005, the settlers in the Gaza Strip had also declared that they would not leave their homes, but had left peacefully in the end. According to Hellman, the Higher Planning Committee in the West Bank has approved in principle a detailed planning scheme for 200 individual plots of land in an unbuilt area of Adam. The detailed planning scheme is part of a larger outline scheme for a neighborhood of 1,450 units which was to be built some time in the future. Hellman said the detailed plan would probably receive final approval by the end of the year or January 2010, after it is submitted for public scrutiny and objections to the plan are heard. Six months later, the Ministry of Housing would complete financial estimates of the cost of each plot of land and they would be offered for sale to the Migron settlers. "A year from now, we will know whether the residents of Migron will buy the land or not," said Hellman. "That will be the test." Hellman added that it would take another 18 months before the new houses were built and the Migron settlers could move in. Until then, they would continue to live in the illegal outpost. According to Michael Sfard, the petitioners' attorney, the state's proposal was "bad for the rule of law, bad for human rights and bad for Israel." He warned that there was no chance the houses in Adam would ever be built, first of all because the state has not built any houses in settlements east of the separation barrier in the past five years, and also because of US pressure to halt all settlement construction. Furthermore, the process of approving the detailed plan would be long and difficult because there are already serious objections to it from the settlers, the Palestinians and environmental groups. There will also be arguments over whether the infrastructure to be built by the government should accommodate only the Migron settlers, all of the plots in the detailed planning schemed or the entire neighborhood of 1,450 units. Sfard quoted a senior military officer who estimated that it would take seven years to build the houses. Furthermore, Sfard pointed out, the residents of Migron have repeatedly declared that they will not leave the outpost. Even if the government's program was feasible, why leave the Migron settlers in the illegal outpost until the new housing was ready, he asked. Why not treat them like the residents of the Gaza Strip settlements, who were evacuated from their homes during the disengagement even though no permanent housing solution was available. They were put up in hotels, rented apartments or temporary homes, and some are still living in temporary accommodations four years later. Secondly, why wait a year to see if the settlers will build new homes in Adam or not. Why not insist that they sign commitments today, promising to move when the new homes are built. Sfard also charged that there was no justice in rewarding lawbreakers with new homes, a benefit law-abiding citizens did not receive.