Migron: The storm that wasn’t
The smooth evacuation of the flagship outpost despite warnings of brewing confrontation suggests that removing West Bank settlements is not an impossible mission.
MIGRON, West Bank – When it finally happened, it ended with a whimper, not a bang. Sunday’s evacuation of Migron, one of the biggest wildcat settlement outposts in the West Bank and a symbol of the drive to seize land without government permits, went off without a hitch, and with virtually no resistance.
A few holdouts and young protesters were carried off by police, but the overwhelming majority of residents complied with the eviction orders and left without a fight.
The quiet departure may well have been linked to plans to move the evacuees to prefab housing just a short distance away – effectively a new settlement – but it was also a telling sign of how what was billed as looming showdown after years of wrangling in court had, in fact, fizzled.
For months, the debate over Migron had been given generous broadcast time, with residents granted repeated opportunities to make their case in interviews, as if their predicament was a matter of fateful national importance.
The case, in which the government acknowledged that Migron was built on privately owned Palestinian land, was indeed a significant test for the rule of law in the West Bank, but it assumed proportions that in retrospect seem exaggerated, a confrontation that was in the end decided swiftly in just a few hours.
For the settlers, their departure was a tactical retreat they predicted would be offset by new building for them elsewhere, and recovery of their original site through further court battles.
For those who waged the legal campaign against Migron, its smooth evacuation was a refutation of dire warnings that moves against the settlement enterprise in the West Bank could trigger violence and even civil strife.
Those concerns were heightened after the fierce confrontations that accompanied the demolition of illegally built homes in the Amona outpost in 2006, but those have not been followed by anything approaching those clashes.
“This proved that evacuation is possible, that the law of the land prevails,” said Michael Sfard, the lawyer who represented Palestinian landowners and Peace Now in their High Court of Justice petition for the removal of Migron. “Since Amona, fears have been raised that further evacuations could lead to civil war, and it’s not true."
Graffiti daubed on one vacated home in Migron compared the evacuation there to previous removals of settlers that were in fact accomplished without causing a national schism: the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the evacuation of the Sinai settlements after the peace treaty with Egypt.
Clearing Migron was a far smaller task, but both residents and their opponents agreed that its status as the flagship outpost in the West Bank meant that its removal carried broader implications.
“Just as our settlement had significance, so did uprooting us,” said Itai Harel, a Migron resident and son of Israel Harel, one of the founders of the settlement movement.
Hagit Ofran, who heads Peace Now’s settlement monitoring team, said that the evacuation of Migron had transformed it from “a symbol of settlement to a symbol of settlement removal."