Migron outpost gets last minute reprieve

State asks for a 30-day delay in the demolition of three homes Sasson Report determined were built on private Palestinian land.

Boy walks past homes in W. Bank outpost of Migron 311 (photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
Boy walks past homes in W. Bank outpost of Migron 311
(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
The state on Sunday sent a letter to the High Court of Justice asking to delay by a month the demolition of three homes at the Migron outpost in Samaria, Defense Ministry sources said.
Cabinet secretary Zvi Hauser and the Defense Ministry’s settlement adviser Eitan Broshi signed the letter, according to the sources. The state had previously pledged to destroy the homes by Sunday.
News of the last-minute reprieve came as the sun set by the large white tent set up in the parking lot at Migron to host protests against the demolition.
“This gives us a shot in the arm, but there is still a long battle ahead,” Migron spokesman Itai Chamo said.
Since the government first stated its intention to destroy the homes 45 days ago, Migron residents and pro-settlement politicians, including MK Danny Danon (Likud), have embarked on an intense lobbying effort to sway the state to delay the move, which would have come just before a High Court debate on Tuesday on the fate of the entire West Bank outpost.
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In particular, they turned to the Prime Minister’s Office, in hopes that it would intervene.
On Sunday night, they speculated that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had indeed done so, and that this had turned the tide temporarily in their favor.
Danon said, “I bless the prime minister for getting involved in this delicate decision.
We should always look at what’s good for the people of Israel, and not the extreme left, which seeks confrontation and hatred.”
Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights, which had filed a petition against the three homes to the High Court of Justice, attacked the move.
In a statement it released to the press, the NGO called the delay “unacceptable” and accused the state of surrendering to the pressure from the settlers.
The state waited until the last second to ask for a delay, instead of enforcing the law and demolishing “illegal construction on confiscated private Palestinian land,” Yesh Din said.
Such an attempt to evade responsibility rewards those who have broken the law and who have “imposed terror” on the authorities and those who enforce the law, it said.
Chamo said he rejected any attempt to characterize the residents of Migron as law-breakers.
“We are not thieves,” he said.
There is a strong argument for legalizing Migron, and residents want to see the issue of the three homes resolved within the larger issue of the outpost’s existence, Chamo said.
Migron, which is home to 50 families, was first built in 1999, he said.
The state believed that it was a strategic point and the Ministry of Construction and Housing drew up initial blueprints for 500 housing units, including public structures.
His words are backed by the 2005 Talia Sasson report, which stated that the ministry spent NIS 4.3 million to develop the site, even though it lacked authorization from the Defense Ministry or the government.
The report also stated the outpost was not built until May 2001 and the land belonged to Palestinians.
The state has accepted Sasson’s judgment, something that has placed the outpost in particular jeopardy, given that the state has been clear about its intention to demolish outposts that are constructed on privately owned Palestinian property.
But Chamo has said the issue of Migron is not so clear-cut. Out of the 64 land lots of which the outpost is composed, 57 are abandoned property, he said. He said three other lots were bought from Palestinian owners, and only four lots are claimed by Palestinians.
He said that in 2009, the outpost filed a legal action regarding the status of the land before a Tel Aviv court.
That case has been put on hold, pending the High Court decision on the outpost, Chamo said.
In 2006, Peace Now filed a petition against the outpost, which was put on hold in 2008, when the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip stuck a deal with the government, in which it promised that Migron would be voluntarily removed to the nearby settlement of Geva Binyamin (Adam) within two years.
When bureaucracy delayed the move, and Peace Now saw that Migron residents were building more homes, it reactivated the case asking for the demolition of the outpost.
This year, Yesh Din filed a separate petition against the three homes, asking that they be demolished.
Chamo said two of the homes are on property that the outpost purchased and the third is on abandoned property.
Yesh Din, however, has said all three are on land that is clearly owned by Palestinians.
In recent weeks, Migron residents have invited all those who support them to come visit. In recent days, they have also urged them to camp out at the outpost to prevent the demolition of the homes.
On Sunday, they gave tours to visitors.
Large signs reading, “Migron: Everyone’s fight” were stretched on a gate within the outpost and along the road leading up to it.
Migron residents and settler leaders, including the head of the Binyamin Regional Council Avi Ro’eh, in whose jurisdiction Migron lies, held meetings at the outpost.
As they huddled on plastic chairs set up in the Migron parking lot, a family that lives in one of the homes slated for demolition prepared to pack their bags. The owner, who works for the police, has been ordered by his superiors to leave the house or risk losing his job.
Haim Teittelbaum, who studies in a Jerusalem yeshiva, does not have to bow to the same pressure. He, his wife and their three children are remaining in their home.
He said he had come to Migron because he wanted to take a stand on behalf of Jewish continuity in Judea and Samaria.
Migron has become symbolic of the courage of the settlement movement, which has taken a strong stand against foreign influence, he said.
“We want to finish what the state started.”
As he spoke, his son, Oz, five, sat on his lap. Teittelbaum said his children understand that the fate of their home hangs in the balance. They also know what they will do if their homes is destroyed, he said “We will build a new home,” Oz said.