Israel to evacuate Migron by August 2008

State concedes outpost built on Palestinian land, will urge settlers to move to another site voluntarily.

Migron 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Migron 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
The illegal outpost of Migron, which is situated on private Palestinian property, will be evacuated by the beginning of August, the state promised the High Court of Justice on Wednesday in the name of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Olmert and Barak said they would use the coming six months to persuade the residents of Migron to leave the outpost voluntarily and move to another site, one that is legal and available. The state's representative, attorney Aner Hellman, added that if the negotiations over these months led to "substantial progress towards a voluntary evacuation," the state reserved the right to ask for more time to complete the process. Migron is located northwest of Jerusalem, between Kalandiya and Ramallah. According to attorney Talya Sasson's report on West Bank outposts, it had its origins in a cellular antenna set up at the end of 2001 on a hilltop near Highway 60. Some months later, settlers brought the first caravans to the site. Today, some 200 people live in the outpost. In 2006, Peace Now, together with five Palestinians who have deeds to plots of land within the fenced off boundaries of Migron, petitioned the High Court of Justice, demanding that the settlers be evicted and the land returned to the deed holders. "The outpost was established and its buildings put down and surrounded by a fence by trespassing and seizing private land without a permit from the owners or the authorities," wrote attorney Michael Sfard in the petition. "The earthwork, infrastructure, roads, placing of structures and construction on a large scale were all carried out with the knowledge and under the tightly shut eyes of the law enforcement agencies in the West Bank." The state originally disputed the allegations in the petition, but eventually conceded that Migron had been built on private Palestinian property. However, it repeatedly asked the court to postpone hearing the petition. In its first response on December 17, 2006, the state told the court it was seeking to reach an agreement with the settlers and asked for up to five months to conclude the negotiations. On May 1, 2007, it informed the court that Olmert had given then-defense minister Amir Peretz two months to prepare a comprehensive plan to evacuate the illegal settlements. On July 8, 2007, the state informed the court that Labor Party chairman Ehud Barak had replaced Peretz as defense minister and wanted two months to study the matter. On September 10, 2007, the state informed the court that Barak had ordered an assistant to speak with the settlers and asked the court for another extension, until the end of October. After receiving an update by the state on November 1, 2006, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch scheduled a hearing for February. The date has been set for February 6. Now, the state has, for the first time, given a vague deadline for dismantling Migron, with or without settler agreement. However, it has asked for at least six more months to continue the negotiations with settler leaders that began 13 months ago.