Israel's High Court of Justice rejected a compromise deal between the state and residents of the West Bank outpost of Migron on Sunday, an agreement that would have prevented Israel from having to dismantle the settlement following a Supreme Court ruling.
The deal was meant to prevent the state from having to comply with a Supreme Court ruling that stated that the goverment had to arrange for the demolition of the Migron settlement by the end of this month, less than a week away.
Migron was ordered demolished because it was built on privately-owned Palestinian land. The relocation is meant to solve this problem without demolishing the outpost entirely.
Sunday's decision was reached unanimously by a panel of three Supreme Court Justices – Asher Grunis, Mirian Naro and Salim Joubran – who ordered the outpost demolished by August 1.
In the ruling, drafted by justice Naor, the court stated that it had the authority to postpone the date of the original order's execution, adding, however, that it saw no need to do so in this case.
Naor wrote that the Migron issue represented one of the "most difficult and extraordinary cases in regards to illegal outposts. The outpost is sprawled across extensive land, all in the possession of private and orderly Palestinian ownership."
"The consideration of a peaceful and consensual evacuation is a weighty one, but it isn't an exclusive and decisive one or one which can completely take away the considerations of damage to private possession and the rule of law," Naor added.
Concerning the compromise, Naor wrote that the purposed postponement of three and a half years "could not be accepted. It is unreasonable. Solutions that could have been accepted in 2006, when the appeal was submitted, cannot be accepted now after all of the procedures and postponements have been exhausted. All are subject to the law and the moment of truth has arrived."
"Claims according to which the residents of Migron settled with the state's permission and with its encouragement are not new. It was raised during the hearing of the appeal. However, as the state has made it clear, no one has the authority to permit the construction of a settlement on private land," Naor wrote.
"The desire to take the distress of the residents into account, one which we do not take lightly, cannot continue to come at the expense of the appellants and at the expense of the enforcement of the rule of law," Naor added.
"Migron's residents have come before us and asked that we accept the state's request for a postponement. As they clearly would have respected a decision to postpone, they must now wholeheartedly respect a decision rejecting that request," Naor wrote, adding that the "obligation to uphold rulings isn't a matter of choice. It's an essential part of the rule of law to which all are subject as part of the State of Israel's values as a Jewish democratic state."
In response to the court's decision, Migron residents issued a statement saying that they "received the difficult ruling today, on which began under false pretenses of 'private land' and which ended in the expulsion of peace-seeking people."
"We're sure that the State of Israel and its representative Minister [Benny] Begin will find the appropriate solution to this new situation, in which a government send its loyal citizens to settle and is forced to expel them using a High Court warrant," the statement added.
Speaking during the annual memorial to deceased presidents and prime ministers in Jerusalem later Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the Israeli government and its citizens respect the court's decisions and operate according to state law, adding: "Sometimes, event the obvious have to be said."
In another response to the High Court's ruling, Yariv Oppenheimer, head of the left-wing NGO Peace Now, said that the High Court, "headed by [justice] Grunis, is making it clear to the Migron settlers and the government that everyone is equal before the law and that the court's decisions must be upheld."
"Israel's citizens expect Migron's residents to honor their obligation and respect any High Court decision, thus evacuating from the outpost peacefully," Oppenheimer added.
Last week, Justice Joubran harshly criticized the state for the deal, saying: What will the rule of law look like when ruling is not followed?
You, the State Attorney, say that the outpost in three years, but I know this type of behavior. Three years will inevitably turn into eight, Joubran said.
On Thursday morning, the court began hearing the state's request to postpone the demolition for three and a half years to allow the settlers to rebuild their homes on Hayekev Hill, which will then become part of the settlement of Kochav Yaakov. The state gave the court Schwartz's opinion approving the compromise to support its stand.
On Wednesday, it was revealed that the Interior Ministry's planning director was initially opposed to a compromise over the West Bank outpost of Migron, but changed her mind due to government pressure, documents presented to the High Court of Justice on Wednesday show.
The documents show that planning director Binat Schwartz, whose job includes advising the government on planning issues, initially objected to the idea of relocating Migron to a site a few kilometers away, but approved the plan about a week later.
Though the Interior Ministry's planning administration is not authorized to deal with planning and construction in the territories, Schwartz was apparently brought in to get around the head of planning at the Civil Administration, Shlomo Moskowitz, who opposes the compromise for planning reasons.
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