Migron settlers seek legal legitimacy

If land is deemed to have been abandoned by Palestinians evacuation order may be canceled.

outpost flag 248 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
outpost flag 248 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Settlers in the unauthorized Migron outpost turned to the Jerusalem Magistrates Court this week in hopes of staving off the evacuation of their small hilltop community, erected during 2002 in the Judean hills. On Monday they asked the court to rule on the status of their outpost, which the state has said is constructed on private Palestinian land. The settlers contend that this classification is erroneous, according to their attorney, Daniel Kramer. They have asked the court to reclassify the land as abandoned property, save for one portion which they purchased from Palestinians. In that instance, they are asking the court to rule on the legitimacy of the sale. Migron is slated for evacuation because of the mistaken classification, Kramer told The Jerusalem Post. Kramer believes that if the court were to reclassify the land as abandoned property, then it would be possible for the 45 families living there to make a case for the legalization of their community. It would also, he said, remove it from the Defense Ministry's list of outposts that must be immediately dealt with. Migron, which is one of the largest of the 101 outposts constructed between 1995-2005, is often seen by both the Right and the Left as the flagship of the drive on either side to legalize or evacuate these communities. The Defense Ministry is trying to reach an overall agreement with the settlers in which some of the 101 outposts would be legalized while others would be moved to alternative locations in the West Bank. The legal status of these outposts is under debate in the ministry, and in a committee headed by Vice Premier Haim Ramon. But the Defense Ministry is adamant that 11 of the 101 outposts - including Migron - built partially or completely on private Palestinian land, must be removed. Israel has promised the international community to remove those outposts which were erected after March 2001. But Defense Ministry sources said the issue of the 11 outposts built on Palestinian land was an internal Israeli one, related to the rule of law, and was separate from the overall international issue. The Defense Ministry wants Migron residents to voluntarily relocate to a nearby settlement, possibly Adam. Binyamin Regional Council head Avi Ro'eh said other settlements were also being considered. Defense Ministry sources said they were optimistic an agreement would be reached. In contrast, Migron spokesman Gideon Rosenfeld said that no one in his community was interested in leaving. Still, in recent months residents have forged a new relationship with the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip and have distanced themselves from more extreme groups that have opposed evacuations. Next Wednesday, the state is expected to report to the High Court of Justice on any progress made toward a solution for Migron. In January the state asked the court to delay the evacuation of the outpost for six months, to give it more time to reach an agreement. The state had already agreed in September 2007 to delay the evacuation order it had issued in response to a petition by Peace Now. Kramer told the Post the initial order to evacuate was issued without a court ruling on the legal status of land. The High Court, he argued, is not the proper venue to debate that question, which is best explored by the Magistrates Court. In light of the new case before the Magistrates Court, Yitzhak Meron, the attorney representing the settlers before the High Court, said he was likely to ask that any evacuation debate be delayed until a ruling on the status of the land has been obtained. A small group of protesters from Peace Now went to the outpost on Thursday to demand its removal. They shouted slogans including, "We left Lebanon, we will leave Migron" and "Migron is stuck like a bone in our throats," and accused Defense Minister Ehud Barak of being a puppet in the settlers' hands. Mossi Raz of Peace Now said that the High Court was acting as though it were a branch of the Council of Jewish Communities rather than an instrument of law enforcement. Peace Now Secretary-General Yariv Oppenheimer said Barak was interested in law enforcement everywhere in Israel except for Judea and Samaria.