The entrance to Migron.
The entrance to Migron. Photo by Michal Fattal
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Reuters
A Jewish settler walks near temporary homes in the unauthorized Jewish outpost of Migron near the West Bank city of Ramallah, February 6, 2012. Photo by Reuters

Israel must evacuate the West Bank outpost of Migron by September 4, the High Court of Justice ruled on Wednesday.

In their ruling, the panel of justices, headed by Supreme Court President Asher Grunis and participated by Deputy President Miriam Naor and justice Edna Arbel, effectively rejects the petition by 17 Migron families to stay on the premises, arguing that they had purchased the land on which their homes were built in a legal manner.

The justices wrote in their verdict that they could not decide on the legitimacy of the said transactions and that they assume, for the purposes of the hearing, that the lots were in fact legally purchased.

In addition, the ruling indicates that justices could not accept the claim made by Migron residents, according to which they thought they would be allowed to stay on the lots in they purchased them.

"The purchasers have nothing more than a purchase," the ruling said, adding that the construction did not correspond to an authorized building plan; that the outpost wasn't within the jurisdiction of any council; that the government never official decided to erect the settlement; and that it was condemned by a final demolition order.

The final timetable for the outpost's demolition was also included in the ruling, which stated that all of the families on site would have to be cleared by Tuesday, September 4, and that the structures would have to be cleared by September 11.

However, the justices accepted the state's position regarding structures placed on the outpost's lot 10, which was allegedly purchased, and indicated that those houses would remain intact up until three months, until the veracity of the purchasers claims can determined.

The ruling came after the state already indicated on Thursday that Migron would have to be cleared within the next few days, according to comments made by State Prosecutor’s Office official Osnat Mandel during the High Court hearing.

At the hearing, Supreme Court President Asher Grunis and Justices Edna Arbel and Miriam Naor discussed two separate petitions submitted by two groups of Migron settlers. One group of 17 families requested to stay on their land, which they claim to have purchased legally from its Palestinian owners, while another group of 30 families seek to delay the eviction order until construction at the new temporary residence site is completed.

During the hearing, Mandel said that the settlers’ demands concerning the temporary residence will not hold up the eviction and that if necessary, the settlers will be moved to a different location while waiting for the temporary site to be completed.

Yuval Funk, director of the World Zionist Organization’s central settlement division, provided an overview of the construction situation and asserted that the temporary housing at the site is ready for habitation. The settlers are being difficult and demanding permits from the fire department, he said. In response, Justice Miriam Naor asked sarcastically whether the Migron outpost itself had been granted such permits.

Regarding the settlers’ demand to enclose the temporary site with a fence, Funk noted that he had spoken with the head of Binyamin regional council, Avi Roeh, who said it was not a good idea because then the site “will look like a ghetto.”

"We expect the residents of Migron to respect the High Court's ruling and evacuate on their own," a Defense Ministry official said, adding that for this purpose ministry is providing the residents with the necessary assistance.

Following the court's ruling, the Migron residents said: "It is a dark day for the State of Israel, a day that has seen the basic rights of right-wingers trampled. The High Court granted legitimacy to the 'price tag' tactics of the State Attorney's office against settlers. The Israeli government will not be able to clean itself of the brutal rape that took place under its nose, and which it did nothing to stop."

In a personal attack, the residents blamed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the court's ruling: "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joins in the eternal shame of the former prime ministers that decided to strike against the settlements. We are positive that Zionist Israelis will know who to blame for this. Residents of Migron are holding their heads high on this difficult day, and believe that the settlements will grow and prosper, and that soon, the story of Migron will end in at least two new settlements!"

The Yesha Council said: "We have no doubt that in both upper Migron and on Winery Hill will eventually be permanent, legal, flourishing Jewish settlements." The council accused the High Court of "not really being open to hear" the settlers' side of the story.

"We will not give up because of this. On the contrary: We will double our efforts to legitimize the land in upper Migron, and we will settle there again, faster than people think," the council said.

Peace Now said in response: "The High Court's decision is a victory for law and order over the illegal settlements in the West Bank. The decision transforms Migron from a symbol of defiance and lawlessness into a symbol for the preservation of Israeli democracy.The court ruling is a beacon of light for Israeli society, proves that the settlers are not above the law, and that the West Bank is not abandoned territory. Peace Now sees the court ruling as an important achievement for all those who believe in a two state solution, and the rules of democracy."