West Bank outpost residents: Migron deal endangers settlement enterprise
Givat Assaf residents blame Migron for reaching an agreement with the state over its evacuation, fearing it will become a precedent in similar legal disputes.
Residents of the West Bank outpost of Givat Assaf have sent a letter to neighboring residents of the outpost of Migron, blaming them for harming the settlement enterprise and saying that their actions will bring about the evacuation of additional West Bank outposts.
Givat Assaf is located near Migron on privately owned Palestinian land, with the exception of a small residential area that they claim was recently purchased. The outpost was set to be evacuated by the end of June, but the state has requested that the High Court of Justice postpone the evacuation to the end of January.
The letter, sent by the residents of Givat Assaf to the residents of Migron ahead of the High Court's final decision on the evacuation of Migron on Tuesday, shows the different approaches taken by the settlers – one that favors a compromise with the state versus another, which is more militant.
This rift was apparent in the recent struggle for another West Bank outpost - Ulpana Hill - in which the settlement’s Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed promised at first to fight against its evacuation, but ended up folding in return for the state's promise to build 300 new housing units in the West Bank. Rabbi Melamed's decision to compromise with the state was strongly criticized by other rabbis and right-wing activists.
In the letter, Givat Assaf residents wrote: “You reached an agreement [with the state] that you claimed is good for the settlement enterprise." The principles of the agreement, according to the letter, were "maintaining Jewish presence on the property, maintaining civilian presence in Migron and significantly changing the state's attitude toward the utilization of lands owned by absentees."
The Givat Assaf residents claim that none of these principles were kept in the compromise achieved with the state. “A while later it became clear that the State Prosecutor’s Office does not intend to allow any presence, neither civilian nor military, at the site and not even on lands owned by absentees."
Instead of setting a positive precedent, Givat Assaf settlers claimed in the letter, the agreement reached by Migron residents and the state has set a negative precedent, which they fear will later on be used against them. Stating that lands owned by absentees (people who fled the West Bank) have the same legal status as privately owned lands "holds fundamental implications for our community, Givat Assaf," the letter said.
The letter also criticizes the 17 Migron families who turned to the High Court, claiming they have purchased some of the lands which are in dispute and therefore they shouldn't be evacuated.
"You petitioned the High Court of Justice, demanding to leave most of the settlement in place. [You did] this, even though you knew that your claim, after signing the agreement with the state, has very small chances of being accepted. Now the State Prosecutors’ Office has decided it will not allow any Jewish presence in Migron – not even on the lands you purchased after a great deal of hard work."
At the end of the letter, Givat Assaf residents called on their neighbors to fight against this decision. "Declare immediately before the nation and the world that the 17 families will remain in their homes," and also called on all the people of Israel to join the struggle.
The High Court of Justice this coming Tuesday is slated to deliberate on the petition of the 17 Migron families. In the meantime, the rest of the outpost's inhabitants are not abiding by the agreement they signed with the state, and are not moving to the alternative site prepared for them on a nearby hill, at the cost of NIS 33 million, of their own free will. As of now, the Migron residents are keeping their cards close to their chest and it is unclear how they will act by next week.
Migron spokesman Itai Hemo told Haaretz in response: "The call by the Givat Assaf residents proves once again that the Likud is distancing itself from the values of the right and is working hand in hand with the state prosecutors to demolish settlements. The High Court justices hold the moral responsibility to defend the property of Israeli citizens, wherever they are."