Israeli settlers reject Netanyahu's request to evacuate largest outpost in West Bank
PM asks Migron settlers to voluntarily evacuate the outpost and receive support to establish a community on nearby state land in return.
The ongoing controversy about the evacuation of the Migron outpost hit a new high Sunday, as settlers angrily rejected a compromise proposal offered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu asked the Migron settlers to voluntarily evacuate the outpost and receive in return support to establish a community on nearby state land. The settlers rejected the proposal and demanded that Netanyahu authorize the Migron outpost's settlement by legislation. They threatened that a Migron evacuation would cost Netanyahu his job, because the national religious public will not tolerate a forcible evacuation of the outpost.
At Sunday's cabinet session, Netanyahu evinced support for the compromise formula forged by Minister Benny Begin. "The High Court of Justice has ruled that Migron must be evacuated by March 31," said Netanyahu. "The government wants to carry out the court's decision, in a fashion that involves consent and is peaceful."
Netanyahu told cabinet ministers that under the compromise formula, a new Migron will be built on state lands on an "authorized, planned basis." It will not be on private Palestinian land.
"The government calls on Migron residents to agree to this proposed compromise, and thereby allow the government to turn soon to the court and ask for this compromise arrangement to be approved," Netanyahu stated. "This is a good proposal which does not solve all the problems, but is sufficiently substantive and can solve the Migron issue."
Netanyahu's comments came a week ahead of Likud primaries, in which he vies against right-wing hawk Moshe Feiglin. Likud regulars have been pressuring Netanyahu, asking that the Migron evacuation be bypassed. Opponents of a Migron evacuation included Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat and Minister Yuli Edelstein. This ministerial trio, along with a number of Likud MKs, entreat Netanyahu to solve the Migron issue via a legislative move that would retroactively authorize the outpost and essentially appropriate the land from Palestinian owners in exchange for a compensation payment.
The government's compromise proposal was first brought to the settlers by Begin a few weeks ago, as Haaretz reported in early January. Under Begin's proposal, the state would establish a new settlement on state-owned land, on the same mountain whose summit currently holds the Migron outpost. After the new settlement's establishment, Migron residents would receive the land without the issuance of a tender offer, and they would build homes out of their own funds.
The proposal borrows heavily from a 2007 Migron proposal offer, under which the state would have removed the outpost to a nearby area. The settlers eventually rejected this compromise formula.
Sunday, Migron settlers rejected the new compromise formula. They demand that the government engage "a real clarification" of the land's status. They say that the land never belonged to Palestinians, and that they have deeds attesting to their own purchase of some of the land. These claims were rejected in the past by the Civil Administration.
Migron settlers add that should it turn out that the land is owned by a Palestinian individual or group, the way to solve the impasse is to provide compensation payments.
The settlers are dissatisfied with Begin's handling of the issue, saying that he never really engaged in a dialogue with them. Instead, the settlers say, Begin basically delivered the proposal formula as a dictate.
Underscoring this discontent, Avi Roeh, head of the Binyamin regional council, sent a public letter to Netanyahu demanding that Begin be relieved of responsibilities for dealing with the Migron issue.
The Begin compromise has over the past month stirred internal disputes among settlers. Members of the Yesha settler council support the compromise. Settlement activist Ze'ev Hever, who supports the compromise, informed government ministers that some of the Migron residents are prepared to evacuate, and predicated that compromise opponents will eventually relent.
On the other hand, Roeh is leading opposition to the compromise, together with Likud activists on the West Bank. These opponents view the Begin proposal as a slippery slope that could lead to the evacuation of other outposts.
In lieu of the Begin compromise, hard-line right-wing activists support a bill proposed by MK Zevulun Orlev, under which, after four years of residence in an outpost established on private land, settlers would be allowed to remain and compensations would be relayed to the owners. Migron settlers relayed Sunday that "for some time we have been proposing an array of compromise solutions that would avoid the destruction of this community, and the removal of more than 50 families. Out of respect for the law and the judicial system, we call for a real dialogue with the prime minister and his advisers, so as to work out solutions that will be acceptable to jurists and the High Court."