High Court may determine Migron’s fate within days

State requests March deadline in order to consider whether there will be a voluntary evacuation of West Bank outpost.

Migron Israel Flag 311 (photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
Migron Israel Flag 311
(photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
The High Court of Justice is expected to issue a ruling, possibly within days, on whether the West Bank outpost of Migron should be forcibly evacuated or allowed to voluntarily relocate to the nearby settlement of Geva Binyamin.
“It is of great importance that [Migron] not be evacuated by force,” state attorney Osnat Mandel told the court during a Tuesday hearing on the matter.
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The state is in the final stages of what has been a lengthy process of relocation, Mandel said. She added that the state hoped that by March the residents of Migron would agree to the Geva Binyamin deal.
“It seems to us that given the history of the case, this is the most correct way to do things,” she said, and added that the state preferred not to forcibly evacuate Migron.
High Court President Dorit Beinisch asked Mandel whether Migron residents “had been informed that they had to leave” and what the state would do if the residents did not agree to the move.
“We would forcibly evacuate them,” Mandel replied, adding that “the moment has arrived for residents of Migron to show whether they are cooperating [with the relocation] or not.”
But she did not commit to a final date for that relocation.
“Regarding the evacuation of Migron, I don’t have permission to name a date,” she said.
Justice Salim Joubran criticized the state’s response and its failure to secure to date an agreement with the Migron residents that they would leave the outpost.
“So you are not saying that there is any cooperation [with the residents of Migron]. In actual fact the state is talking to itself, it does not have a partner.
That is the problem,” Joubran said.
Attorney Michael Sfard of Peace Now, whose organization first filed a petition against the outpost in 2006, slammed the state for what he said were repeated broken promises over evacuating the outpost.
Sfard also criticized as “unethical” the state’s plan to evacuate the residents of Migron to the nearby community of Geva Binyamin, also known as Adam, where they will be given homes.
“Why am I not getting a private home? Why are people on Rothschild Boulevard [in the tent-city housing protest] not getting private homes?” Sfard told the court.
“When the state decided on the [2005] disengagement [from Gaza], there people were living legally. So did the state come up with housing solutions before it evacuated them? No.
So now we have to wait for the residents of Migron. Who are land grabbers?” The outpost, located in the Binyamin region of the West Bank 5 km. north of Jerusalem, was first constructed over a decade ago, with NIS 4.3 million from the Ministry of Construction and Housing, but without the proper authorization.
In her 2005 report, Talia Sasson said the outpost was constructed on private Palestinian property, a designation which since has been accepted by the state.
Peace Now first petitioned the High Court to evacuate Migron in 2006, on behalf of Palestinians with claims to the property.
The state has agreed in principle to evacuate the outpost, but has yet to make good on that pledge.
The matter has returned to court a number of times with the state requesting more time to come up with a plan to evacuate the outpost and rehouse its residents.
In 2008, the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip struck a deal with the government, in which it promised that Migron would be voluntarily removed to the nearby settlement of Geva Binyamin within two years.
Although the Migron residents themselves have yet to agree to relocate, the state has moved ahead with the Geva Binyamin plan.
Separately, Sfard, on behalf of Yesh Din, filed a petition before the court requesting that the state demolish three homes recently built at the Migron outpost.
Although the petition was withdrawn when it was discovered that it listed the wrong property, the state still promised the court it would removed the three homes as of Sunday, July 24. Yesh Din plans to refile its petition against the three homes.
On Monday, July 25, the state told the court that it needed more time to evacuate the three homes because of the impact the demolitions could have on regional security. It promised the court that it would do so no latter than September.
The matter of the three homes came up on Tuesday, during the larger issue regarding the outpost.
The judges asked Mandel why the state had not kept to a commitment to demolish three houses in the outpost within a 45-day time period.
Mandel replied that the state had not demolished the houses because, during a tour of the area in July, Defense Minister Ehud Barak had deemed the timing for the demolitions to be “unsuitable.”
“We informed the court that in the defense minister’s opinion, we intend to carry out the demolitions in the coming weeks. No later than September,” Mandel replied.
Migron residents who dispute the Palestinian claim of ownership and who believe the outpost can be legalized, have spent the last weeks heavily lobbying the government to save the outpost.
Migron spokesman Itai Chamo said the state’s statements to the court regarding the homes were discouraging, even though he remained hopeful that it would agree to delay the demolition of the outpost as a whole.
Sfard said the Defense Ministry’s refusal to demolish the three homes showed the court that the state was not willing to take even the smallest step to remove the outpost.
While the state is asking the court for patience, more homes are being illegally built in Migron, he said.