West Bank Settlement Slated for Removal, But Will It Happen?

BY Larisa Epatko  August 17, 2012 at 2:27 PM EST


Prefabricated homes in the illegal outpost Migron in the Israeli-controlled West Bank. Photo by Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images.

Updated Sept. 2: About 50 families began to move out of the illegal Migron hilltop outpost on Sunday in response to a court order to vacate their homes.

Updated Aug. 28: Osnat Mandel, head of the Petitions Department of the State Attorney’s Office, said during a High Court of Justice hearing on Tuesday that the Migron outpost “must be evacuated during the next few days.” Some families have petitioned to stay, saying they bought their land from the Palestinian owners, and others have requested an extension.

Original Story:

The largest illegal settlement outpost in the West Bank, called Migron, is set for a court-mandated evacuation on Tuesday, but some wonder if it actually will happen.

The Israeli Supreme Court ruled a year ago that the Migron outpost was illegally built on Palestinian-owned land and must be dismantled by April 2012. The Israeli government requested and received several extensions, including the latest one that took it to the end of Ramadan on Aug. 21 to avoid possible anti-Arab provocations.

The delays were requested in order to give the settlers time to explain why they have legitimate property rights in Migron. About 50 families live in the community, which is 8 miles north of Jerusalem.

Some settlements in the West Bank are considered legal under Israeli law, even though international law considers all of them illegal. Groups seeking their removal have been using a legal tactic over the past few years that has proven successful — presenting judges with the deeds of Palestinian landowners who wish to reclaim their property.

Instead of trying to clear settlements by pointing out their illegal nature, using the deeds has proven more effective because “so far no court will deny someone’s property deed,” said Noga Tarnopolsky, GlobalPost’s reporter in Jerusalem. (Read her report on another settlement, Ofra.)

Reaction to the mandated evacuation has been mixed, said Tarnopolsky. “In Israel, there’s general support for observing the rule of law, especially by citizens whose lives are constrained by the rule of law,” and they don’t agree with those who set up encampments illegally.

But there are others who believe it’s their right to live in the land Israel acquired in the 1967 Six Day War, and various Israeli governments through the years have supported them in this endeavor, she said. The more extreme believers of this philosophy have continued to build settlements in remote hilltops of the West Bank.

“The question is will some of them provoke violence on Tuesday,” Tarnopolsky said.

The settler leadership doesn’t condone violence, she continued, and they base their entire claim of living in legal settlements on being law-abiding. But there might be some renegades who act out against the Israeli military police on Tuesday, should an eviction be necessary.

There are others on the political right, who support the vision of greater land settlements, but believe they’ll get to keep the settlements that are considered legal under Israeli law if the residents of illegal communities like Migron leave voluntarily, said Tarnopolsky. The settlers of Migron might bow to this pressure and leave willingly, thus eliminating the need for an evacuation, she added.

An alternate site for the settlers has been identified in Givat Hayekev, or Winery Hill, a religious community of more than 1,000 families in another part of the West Bank.

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